I followed the final launch of the Space Shuttle yesterday, Friday, July 8, 2011. A day that should live in our American History. On the NPR news coverage that I was tuned to, I learned that there was only a 30% chance that the stormy weather at Cape Canaveral would permit a go ahead. Yet it was scheduled, and close to a million spectators were on hand to see this final space shot... for now. A break in the weather occurred, during the ten-minute window for connecting with the International Space Station, and the countdown continued to Blast-off!
For moments I was back in those exciting days. Astronauts Shepard and Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin, rocketing down range, into orbit, and to the moon and safely home! Thirty years and two fatal missions with shuttle flight, and it's coming to an end.... for now.
What is next? The moon again? Asteroids and Planet Mars? There is no schedule, no budget.
I have more than a passing interest. My classmate from flight school in 1958, Officer Instruction Class 34 (OI-34), Pensacola, Florida, was Ensign Ken (Thomas K.) Mattingly, a NROTC graduate from Auburn (Alabama Polytechnic Institute). Ken became an outstanding test pilot and an Astronaut, who flew in the Apollo Program. Today he is in his mid-70s and a retired Navy Admiral. I have followed the entire manned space program very closely.
But now will an American President imagine a visit to deep space and to the stars?
Could we staff it, pay for it? I don't think so. The dramatic launch of Shuttle Atlantis on mission number 135, was, I believe, America's "Last Big Thing."
While this symbol of a nation's spirit of exploration flies, the divided political leadership of our government is meeting tomorrow on Sunday to argue about how to pay our debts!
Don't increase any taxes. Cut back on current social security and medicare that we pay our elders. Will we pay our bills or go into default on August 2nd?
No, don't expect greatness again with these WE have elected. Selfishly, we let the arguments continue, to our lasting shame.
Once we were proud and knew how to fly.