Good riddance, Space Shuttle - Printable Version
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Good riddance, Space Shuttle - KonaKane - 07-08-2011 04:40 PM
Like a lot of other American kids of my generation, I was fascinated with space. The whole idea of planning out and building a rocket, of boarding it and going "where no man had gone before" was obsessively fascinating to me. I was nine years old and sitting cross legged and wide eyed in front of my grandma's old black and white TV on that hot summer, watching history unfold in front of me as Neil Armtrong took that little leap to the lunar surface. For months after that, I was building models of the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) and drawing it on all the paper placemats of restaurants we would go to.
What a time it was. From the day those immortal words from JFK outlining the vision of a manned mission to the moon, to the completion of the act nine years later. I was truly lucky to be a human born to this age.
Well, until the thrill went gone. After a few more missions to the moon, some interesting overtures to Mars and a wondrous plaque designed by Carl Sagan which went out to the beyond, announcing to it who we are, we got acquainted with the "Carter Malaise". That heralded the great long lasting winter of our intellectual discontent, otherwise known as the Reagan Revolution. The California Cowboy was in office, and he was ready to make war with much more than government spending and the Russians. He had his sites set on putting a few slugs in the space program, and he did it by signing off on what would be a decades long program of nothingness.
Otherwise known as the space shuttle.
I worked with a guy in the animation industry who damn near ejaculated every time a shuttle went skyward. He would watch it over and over every time they televised a launch. He would try to get me as interested in it as he was. I tried, I really did. I watched one. Cool. Watched another. OK, fine. Another….hum, was there a point to this? Oh yes. The payload in this one was "military secret". In that one, research for some communication company. Whoopee! On and on they went. The space program, under profound Republican disinterest, was dying the death of a thousand cuts, each one the droopy eyed indifference of another citizen who could care less about sending up yet another expensive plane into the stratosphere.
So finally, the day to bury that poor old worn out toy has come. Today's child might have a space shuttle toy in his box. He might fly it around his room, imagining it is whizzing by some far off planet, taking readings of a bizarre alien civilization. If I were so inclined to argue with a tike, I would dig out my old model of the LEM, fly it past him and ask what his stupid little rocket ship did that even competed with what my cantankerous contraption did for space exploration.
As we toss a rose on the casket of the space shuttle, I'm not too broken up about it. I see it as more than a relic of aerodynamic masturbation. I see it as a symbol of Republican conservative indifference to exploration, wonder and the pursuit of the expansion of knowledge.
The shuttle will return and be mothballed, or sold out for parts. But my LEM will still be up on the moon, stilled in its silent and eternal space tomb, a beacon of what our wondrous curiosity used to be. A reminder of where our wonder stopped.