What a momentous occasion. 3 years ago, with the completion of the Space Shuttle program, it looked like our days of heading to outer space were through. We were now living in a world where flying into the cosmos was not a high priority, and the funding just couldn’t be spared to make that sort of stuff happen. Most people in America simply did not care about space exploration any more. It was a sad day for geeks like me. When I was a kid, watching shows like Star Trek, all I dreamed about was one day going into space. All of a sudden it look like no one would be doing that any more, at least no Americans. It was just really too bad.
Flash forward 3 years, and the space program is back on track. This last week witnessed the first test flight of the new Orion Spacecraft. This vessel went further into space than any other vessel has since Apollo 17, 42 years ago. The plan is to continue to test Orion over the next few years, and then in the 2020’s, we will send a crew to an asteroid that is currently orbiting our moon, and then in the 2030’s we will land someone on Mars. This timeline is both exciting and disappointing. It took less than 10 years from when Kennedy said we would put a man on the moon until we put a man on the moon. This process to get to Mars will take us at least 16 years, possibly 20. I understand that Mars is a lot further away than the moon is, but a big reason why there is such delay is budgeting constraints.
I am a big believer in the Space Program. I think we need it, because it helps us to strive for something bigger than ourselves. It brings us together in ways that nothing else can. How many people who witnessed the first moon landing have anything negative to say about it? I mean except for the people out there who believe the whole thing was faked (Most of those folks did not witness it). People who saw it were inspirited by it. When we landed on the moon, we began to believe we could do anything, and when we all come together to accomplish something, we can do everything.
I am a big Star Trek fan (A Trek fan, not a Trekker and never a Trekkie), and one of my favorite Star Trek movies is First Contact. This movie involves time travel and has the crew going back in time to the historic day of “First Contact,” the day when Humans encountered an Alien species for the first time, officially.
The Borg go back to this time to stop this from happening because it is a pivotal moment. The crew of the Enterprise go back to stop the Borg, because this is the moment where everything changes. All the warring factions stop fighting and the people of Earth come together because they realize that they are not alone in the universe, and that is a uniting thing. Because of this event, they go further out into space and eventually become the central race of the United Federation of Planets.
I feel like going out into space, exploring, it brings us together. Helps us to see a much bigger picture. We are so small compared to what’s out there. And sending people into space reminds us of that, but it reminds us too, that when we come together, we can do some amazing things. This country needs NASA and the space program now, more than ever. We need something bigger than ourselves to strive for, something that will bring us together, help us to see that our prejudices, our disagreements are all really so small.
Seeing the footage of Orion launch, and seeing some of the pictures that were taken from Orion, it made me proud to be an American again. We were leaders in the race to the Moon, and we can be leaders in the race to Mars as well. Orion may have just been the first step in us expanding beyond this world and possibly reach further than we have reached before. I wish the whole process was more accelerated, but at least there is movement. At least it’s not 3 years ago when it looked like NASA was done for good. For the first time in a long time I am excited about the Space Program in our country, and I am excited about what that might mean, as an American, and as geek.