Perhaps you can understand when I say that as I get closer to 40, I’m starting to think about years gone by more and more, usually with “what if I had done something different” in mind, and this article about a boy who wants to be an astronaut made me think about how, at his age, I wanted almost the same thing. Six-year-old Connor Johnson who has started one of those White House petitions to save NASA. All he wants to do is fly in space some day, but as of right now, he’ll be lucky to get halfway there in a military jet, should humans still be flying military jets when he’s old enough. Maybe he can fly into space with the Chinese.
I was like Connor once. You would have to ask my parents to be sure but I don’t think I ever wanted to be an astronaut. I sure had an interest in the U.S. space program and devoured any and all information I could find on our efforts at the time (the 1980s) and the past. Popular Mechanics regularly ran features on what future NASA missions would look like, with speculation ranging from fancy and advanced space ships to colonies on Mars. I ate that stuff up. The 21st Century was going to be amazing!
I was born well after the moon missions. In my lifetime we’ve had Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the International Space Station. And now, basically, the ISS is all we have. American space exploration is pretty much kaput. We ride in Russian rockets, as guests, to the ISS. How ironic.
Which is why it made me a little sad to see Connor’s story. He can dream all he wants, but he doesn’t live in a country that goes into space any more. Even if we could still go, there isn’t a real reason to do so. The moon missions were more for beating the Soviets there than anything else, although “we came in peace for all mankind” was a great sound bite. What we really needed to do was show the Russians that we had superior rocket technology that could not only fly us to the moon, but power our nuclear missiles as well. We can say the same thing about the space shuttle. Conquering space proved we could conquer other places too, like, oh, the Soviet Union, should the need arise. It was all about the Cold War whether you like it or not.
I suppose even today it’s important that the U.S. stay on the cutting edge of space technology, but it appears more important to move NASA funding over to food stamps because missions to Mars won’t keep socialists elected.
And we really should be concerned about the Chinese moon mission. It didn’t get enough press. It’s more proof that America is fading as a world power. We used to own space; now, the foreigners are taking over (sound familiar?). Humans will land on Mars someday, but in ships launched from China and India. Maybe some Americans will be on board one of those ships (for old time’s sake), but perhaps China and India will have enough money to tell us to stay home. It’s a dream-killing sad state of affairs. But, wow, I sure remember being a six year old who dreamed of space travel. Poor Connor Johnson, who will also never see the America I grew up in, was born too late. Then agian, so was I.