Today, Monday, July 20th, marks the fortieth anniversary of Americans planting the American flag on the surface of the moon and beginning what, for many of us, has become a huge disappointment.
July 20th, 1969. I stayed up all night, that night, and celebrated. I leapt up and down. I wept. I shouted with joy. I was one of the proudest Americans on the planet that day, 40 years ago. I KNEW we were headed for the planets (and the stars) where, I felt (and still do) God intended us to go.
I had followed the American space program from its days of infancy up to that seminal moment of singular importance. Yes, I was one of those “star-struck” people who pulled his truck off the road and turned the volume of the radio up, got out of the vehicle and stood on the shoulder of the highway, not far from Monroe, North Carolina, looking up, unconscious that I was searching the skies for a fireball when John Glenn’s heat shield failed upon re-entry and, for a few anxious moments, planet earth did not know if we had killed that brave Marine Astronaut. When, at last, we heard his voice we understood, perhaps for the first time, the true meaning of Mission Control’s farewell to Glenn: “God Speed, John Glenn!” as his rocket ship blasted a hole in the roof of the earth as he began his mission as a “pathfinder” for those who would follow in search of man’s destiny in the stars.
Over the years since, my heart has slowly sunk as it became obvious, while remaining unofficial for as long as the government dared, until finally one dark day, it DID become official that we were curbing our space program and our exploration of the neighboring planets and concentrating on a space station in orbit around the earth. Like America’s space program the space station continues to go round and round, sort of running in place.
I quickly became bored with that flying breadbox and by NASA’s repeated trips to the flying piece of hi-tech junk we laughingly call a “space station.” Are you as bored as I am that the space truck, “The Shuttle” is way past its prime and, apparently, seems to be falling apart?
So… what happened? I mean, what happened to our great plans to explore space?
The cost? Nah! That’s not it. We placed men on the moon while bearing the expense of losing a war in Southeast Asia, which our government would not allow our military to win. The real cost is in not getting off this planet and finding a new home! Man’s destiny lies out there, among the stars, among the planets. I am solidly convinced of that.
I had hoped before my days on THIS planet were over I would live to witness the first Mars colony. I had assumed we would already have a colony on the moon. But, no… we are still fiddling around with that metal can circling the earth… the Space Station.
The space station, as I recall, was originally planned to be a construction site. (We have, what, maybe two generations of Americans who do not know the original space station was to be the point of embarkation for space ships, and/or star ships as they searched space for the next home to be colonized for the human race.) Parts for a huge star ship (space exploration vehicle) were to be flown up to the station by the shuttles and the humongous star ship was to be built, in space, with the workmen living in the space station until the ship was completed. None of that has happened. That program was cut back and cut back until, for all I know may have been “cut OUT” altogether. It’s as though the entire program has been put on hold and NASA is just running “in place.”
We must get off this rock! Our lack of curiosity about what lies “out there” is troublesome to me. I worry that we have lost our desire to explore. Our horizons have become much too close. We, as a race, have turned inward and that is never good. It seems as though we have decided to “settle” for what we have here. We have lost our “vision”. We are withering on the vine.
I worry, too much, I know, that we have become so preoccupied with our little hovel, earth, that we are missing the really big picture and so much is passing us by. I cannot accept that this is all there is. My God would not have created us and plopped us down on this “dirtball” with no hope of getting off it! We are stifling ourselves. Man needs new worlds to discover. We need to stretch out, and extend our wings, and fly as high, and as far, as we can! Even if we, too, melt our wings… it would be worth the trip!
The exploration of space has been a dream of mine as far back as I care to recall. It bothers me, mightily, that my generation threw away our chance to make it happen. From my perspective that is massive shortsightedness on the part of my generation. Of course, I’m jealous of the generation that WILL make it happen, because I won’t see it and I won’t have a chance to take part in it. What a screwed-up world we live in!
America was a great country when she did not place limits on herself. She could do ANYTHING!
Today, sadly, we have self-imposed limits. It has become politically incorrect to spend the money necessary for the space program and not give it to the poor. I have to tell you… that is wrong! Even Christ himself said: “The poor you have with you always!” Poverty is a fact of life. As Christ said, we are always going to have poor people living among us. No matter what we do! We cannot allow the poverty of a few in this nation to drag down the entire nation. That way lies national suicide!
Look, if man does not get off this tiny blue ball, we are going to exterminate ourselves. The fighting will eventually kill us all. Our differences are never going to be settled, so some of us need to leave. Much as our forefathers left the old country and settled this one, we have to strike out and find that new home. It’s out there. We just have to go find it. And we have to go soon!