The Universe In all of its Glory; Continuing Onwards and Upwards into the Cosmos
NASA is arguably the greatest and most profound enterprise to come from the US. Exporting the insatiable intellectual curiosity for the cosmos might just be the best diplomatic move the US could make. Instead, we are taking our spaceships out of space, and turning them into museum attractions for children to play in.
As the space shuttle Endeavour prepares for its final flight back to Earth, it’s riveting to imagine the leaps and bounds humanity has made in modern history. We have peered out into the cosmic void only to see images that have astonished our senses, re-vamped our inquisitiveness, and made us reconsider our priorities here on our pale blue dot.
Self-reflection is an important part of any well-rounded individual’s character. If you can’t step outside of your own subjective judgment of self, and analyze your life from a different plane of reality, it becomes difficult to avoid the traps and deceptions of a mediocre life. Momentarily suppressing the ego and having a look at self can be a riveting exercise, but how far out are we willing to step back? Consider the contemplation of your own evolution. Where does your consciousness come from? What was the inception of your fruition? The answer is quite simple really, the beginning of the universe.
“These (humans) are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution. It has the sound of epic myth, but it is simply a description of the evolution of the cosmos as revealed by science in our time. And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.” – Carl Sagan
The United States is effectively cancelling its manned space program. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, a young ship who has only made 25 of the allotted 100 flights its engineers built it to fly, the US is backing up from the precipice that it worked so hard to reach. Countless new technologies and discoveries have been made due to the space shuttle program. Hubble alone would have been decommissioned a long time ago had it not been for the crew of the Endeavour MANUALLY refocusing its lenses, and allowing us to peer into the universal void.
The main criticisms of the space shuttle program, and some of the factors behind its decommission include cost efficacy, and the inherent danger to human life. That is a ridiculous and laughable argument. Juxtapose the space missions with the US’s perpetual war machine, which continues to invade and “liberate” barren countries in the name of “global security”. Where is the same concern for the countless loss of life and treasure this imperial raid of the Middle East is incurring the US? Countless trillions and over a decade of occupation; enough to make your head spin, yet Congress continues to grant astronomical budgets to the military complex, while ignoring the astronomical ambitions of the nation’s brightest minds.
There is a paradigm shift occurring in the US. We have begun acting out of fear. We are becoming risk averse in areas we can ill-afford to give up our lead. Making decisions out of fear, fear of the loss of life, fear of the loss of another shuttle, is shortsighted. Fear is an extremely counter-productive facilitator to fall victim to. In the near future, Chinese and European students will read about the turning points in time where the United States began to lose its place at the head of the table. Sure 9/11, a corrupt and unscrupulous financial industry, and a war machine hell-bent on securing every last ounce of the world’s most precious natural resource will be cited, but one of the most poignant and profound instances of the US’s loss of confidence in itself will be the day that this country decided to take its space ships out of space, and turn them into museum exhibits.
Cancelling the Space Shuttle Program would have been a momentous occasion and a milestone in scientific and political progress had there been a viable replacement program. A newer and better way for the US to continue to send inquisitive minds and bodies into space, to learn, to discover, and to share. Alas, there is no replacement program; there is no moving forward.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Space Shuttle Program (1981-2011).