When I was little, like every other kid, I was fascinated with the night sky. I memorized tons of constellations, because to me, space was like birdwatching. It was something you could look at from a distance, but you couldn’t ever possibly immerse yourself in it. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that people were actually in that sky.
Last Friday, I joined every pair of eyes in the nation – and, I’m guessing, the world – as we launched the final space shuttle on its final journey. It was a spectacular launch, complete with that last minute hold that was (thankfully) nothing major, but just enough to make everyone catch their breath.
The eyes of a nation followed that glorious bird upward. Then we cheered. And our eyes came back to the horizon. To an empty launch pad. And an empty future.
You have the gaze of an entire nation. You have the wonder, pride, and hope of an entire nation. They are all looking to you, NASA, to give us a new dream. Give us new horizons to dream about. Give us new heights to explore.
My three year old son and I have watched the launch on YouTube countless times now. We pass the US Space & Rocket Center once a week, and he mentions how he will one day ride that rocketship. He will be the pilot, he declares. I will ride alongside him.
We as a nation have had to overcome great obstacles in the last decade. From national disasters to terrorism to a recession, we’ve had many opportunities to show our resilience. And we’ve been resilient.
There’s a quote from the show 1776, where Ben Franklin says that we Americans are a new people. More entrepreuring, more violent. Less refined, less afraid. These things are so very true. Which is why the Space Race fit so well among our ideals, and it’s why our nation again needs something to believe in.
Space exploration provides us with the idea that there is something greater than ourselves available to us. To our children. To our history. It provides us the chance to look past our fingertips, past the treeline, past where our eyes can even see and think, Someday. Someday, I can go there.
Be us age three or thirty, we need space exploration. Please give us a vehicle to the stars.