I never wanted to be an astronaut. Of course, my saying I never wanted to be an astronaut is like Ronald Reagan saying he never wanted to be a liberal. I’ve never had a real aptitude for physical sciences. Uncle Sam was pointing in the other direction when he said “I want you!” I have a particularly acute fear of heights. For me, waiting in line for a roller coaster is kind of like waiting for someone to shove bamboo shoots under your fingernails. Me and the space program have an understanding, they don’t want people like me and I don’t want them. Here’s the thing though, I desperately want them to succeed. People ask me why and I have trouble answering. Sure, there is the science – but that doesn’t do it for me. There is the national pride in our technological feats, but I don’t think that is a very good reason either. For me, it is the fact that, as a society we are pushing the envelope, we are moving forward, we are going where we haven’t gone before. It is the dream of accomplishing the impossible, believing that we really can accomplish anything if we just put our minds to it. I fear that if we loose that dream; or worse, if we refuse that dream – we will cease to dream. That is not a time that I want to live through.
Since Saturday I have already read of people questioning the necessity of manned space flight in our time. I’ve heard people saying that it is just not worth the cost of human life to go into space. Do we dishonor the memory of those who have died by forsaking the dream, in their name? I think we do. I hope the tragedy of this weekend results not in the forsaking of the dream, but in a discussion of how we can better realize the dream.
Here’s to hoping.