Look at this beautiful picture. Scan it hard. What do you see? The Space Shuttle Discovery being piggybacked to its final resting place inside the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. You’re also flanked by the Capital Building, a symbol of American pride and strength showing the world that America is a land to be admired and revered. But, as I look, I see images of a country that isn’t looking to the future as a land of innovation, discovery, ingenuity, and aggressive growth. Instead, it’s pointing backwards, diving towards governmental control and socialistic programs. My point: We must start sprinting forward to greatness again if we are to be a force for the future.
Ever since the early days of the Mercury programs, Apollo missions to the moon, Skylab, and Space Shuttles Americans have been captivated by how our brilliant scientists and engineers created the possible from the sketches and blueprints of the impossible. Through both tragedy and triumph, our brave astronauts have dared undertake incredibly dangerous feats of sitting atop rockets and launching themselves into the heavens to demonstrate some of man’s greatest achievements. They did so because it was important to represent ourselves as leaders, symbolizing true American grit and determination, and showing the world that no country can come together as a nation like America when great minds think alike. The space program has been a terrific source of hope, excitement, a welcome addition to that can-do spirit, and has brought us together many times during its trials-and-errors. It’s represented the ultimate quest for adventure, and inspires us to believe that anything, I mean anything is possible given enough time, determination, and thirst for creativity.
I’ve had a Pilot’s license since 1989, making aviation very close to my heart. I’ve flown for pleasure and as a source of income, even writing about flying adventures in my novel, Sons in the Clouds. So, when funding for the U.S. Space Program dried to dust underneath our Politicians weathered shoes, making our astronauts stoop to hitching rides on foreign nations’ rockets to reach the Space Station, it made me feel that the glory days of America’s quest for greatness were tainted. And what really hurts is seeing my tax dollars go to budget-busting entitlement programs, lavish trips for Government workers to such places as Las Vegas, ineffective stimulus spending, inflated Government salaries, and pork-barrel expenditures all of which does nothing but place our country into further debt when those dollars could be better used elsewhere.
When President Kennedy tooled up our space program and dared NASA to beat the Russians to the moon, which we did, it was one of the defining moments in our country’s history. It let the world know we could do anything and that OUR nation’s flag was to be the one planted atop lunar soil, and no one else’s could ever claim that same elite status. Since then, we’ve launched countless manned missions into earth’s orbit, not to mention the probes, robots, satellites, and other objects into the further reaches of the galaxy. We’ve landed atop the red soil of Mars, taking pictures and samples. And all it took was a commitment from our nation’s leaders to help make it happen. The dreamy days of outer space were no longer limited to comic books and adolescent fantasies once men like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Jim Lovell created their streaks across the cosmos. Now, they’re nothing but pleasant memories until America’s politicians decide once again to place greatness ahead of mediocrity. Some argue the Space Program is more for entertainment than technical achievement. But, I can promise that many of the medicines, techno-gadgetry, and military advancements would never have come to pass if it weren’t for our rockets blasting into space.
So, where has our prominence gone? Where’s the excitement once felt when our nation’s heroes and genius minds catapulted our American flag ahead of others, making foreign countries come to us for advice, support, knowledge, and engineering know how? Where’s the respect we once carried when our rockets blazed into the sky showing superior ingenuity?
I hope before my time here on earth draws to a close I’ll see American greatness again. A fresh period when our children look at people like our astronauts, military generals, business-minded Presidents, and genius innovators as heroes rather than Snoop Dog, Lady Gaga, and Snooki. A land where we get back to creating things, beautiful things, things which set us apart as a people of originality and inventiveness.
I was lucky enough to see three Space Shuttles actually launch, and I plan on visiting their exhibits sometime when I can. I only hope that their memories can be overshadowed someday by machines much bigger, smarter, and still wearing the American flag.