It’s been a few days and the news cycle revolves around and around alternating between the Space Shuttle Columbia and the pending war in Iraq. I was absent-mindedly watching tv and noticed the “Breaking News” on CNN…it’s used so much now though that it took me a little while to figure out what was going on. Seeing Mission Control made me start to pay attention as I didn’t think that was a good sign. As what was happening slowly began to become clearer and clearer it was sad, but I can’t help but think about the horrific events of Sept. 11 and how the media coverage of that in some ways seems to have permanently numbed part of impact that “Breaking News” has.
But as the days went by I started thinking about the astronauts who were lost and then remembered the Challenger and how I’ve followed space flight pretty much my entire life.
My earliest memory is of the Apollo 11 moon landing (I wasn’t there…I just remember seeing it on tv). My Mom saved the local newspaper from that day and I still have it. The first novel that I read was a sf novel about the Moon race…it was fascinating as I read it years after the actual Moon landing which made it oddly anachronistic. The idea of space travel is amazing and inspiring. You can see the earth–the whole planet with every human being on it–from space…it’s amazing to think about that and the perspective it provides.
The connections that people feel with the space program are fascinating as well.
Many ’bloggers are remembering their childhood and the various significant milestones and tragedies in the history of sending animals and then humans into space. The technology that I’m using now is connected to the development of technology for space so if it wasn’t for the space program, I wouldn’t be writing this and you wouldn’t be reading this. But the technological and scientific goals are often wrapped up with nationalistic goals as well. With the end of the Cold War much of the flag-waving motivation and attraction of the space program has faded and it has seemed to become less about patriotism and more about science…maybe that’s why the launches and landings didn’t get as much coverage and it seemed much more commonplace and less of a risk. But it was and remains risky and it sadly takes a terrible accident to bring the space program back into our thoughts again.