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  • Writer's pictureMichael Jones

The Last Space Shuttle Mission

Updated: Sep 28, 2019


Space Shuttle Atlantis is still cooling down on the runway as it dissipates the last remnant of energy that propelled it to orbit. It is dead and cooling. An important part of our spirit as a nation died along with Atlantis this morning with "Wheels Stopped" in the Florida pre-dawn darkness. Sad, profoundly sad. NASA can be very proud. Last Shuttle Flight: "thats one giant step backward for Mankind, one long step for 9000 shuttle workers to the unemployment line..." Shame on our politicians. Job well done NASA!

For most Americans this day found us preoccupied with the major league football lockout, the whereabouts of Casey Anthony and who won Dancing with the Stars last night. We have profoundly changed the underpinnings of our national character. It seems we are going the way of past great civilizations and are squandering our inheritance. Our slide into oblivion is clear to any student of history. Albert Schweitzer in his writings, The Philosophy of Civilization identified two great foundations characteristic of modern civilizations, one where its citizens regard the culture as purely material, and the other believing society to be both ethical and material. I believe the true path to be based on the latter. Unfortunately, we have lost our conservative values and have become a Super Nanny State. There is a strong ethical component to conducting the affairs of State with a long term view of where the country is headed. We have lost that long term view. Politicians worry only about gaining power and holding on to it at any cost. obama has never gotten out of his campaign mode. When Atlantis touched town a few minutes ago that view was solidly reinforced.

Pick any second of your time over the past 30 years. You have many to choose from... Consider what was going on in the minds of each citizen for what I’ll call their NASA second. At some point we all thought about space, what it would be like to go there. Or what it might be like to live out among the planets and stars. Some of our ‘seconds’ expanded to embrace visions of humankind becoming a spacefaring species. Everybody remembers where they were when Neil Armstrong’s booted foot put the first human footstep off our tiny world. How exciting! It was exciting because as a nation we were committed to doing it. And the entire world was glad and excited for what the USA had just done. My God, we just put two guys on the MOON. Walter Cronkite, a normally cool reporter of major human events wept and sat speechless at Armstrong’s declaration: “Houston,Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!!!” The first part of the dream was made real with our moon landings, flights of our Shuttles and the assembling the 500-ton ISS 250 miles up in orbit. Little boys and girls could dream of becoming astronauts. We looked around and began to realize that some of us would actually live out our lives on the moon, Mars or beyond. How exciting! We wondered what it would be like for our children and grandchildren to only know Earth through videos and pictures. There were no limits to our dreams and desires to be explorers and pioneers of this new high frontier. All that is dashed. Now kids watch “Growing Up Gottie”, The Kardashian’s, and sequester themselves away while texting, sexting, and running up huge mobile phone bills.  We kill initiative, tax the innovative to death and think anybody who makes a lot of money is evil and crooked and should be hounded and watched like a criminal.

The day will surely come when we will deeply regret not pursuing a vigorous space exploration program. Our spending reflects our priorities. Most people have no clue about NASA’s shuttle program budget. It may shock you to know that NASA’s federal budget is just 0.60% of the total federal budget or just a little over $18 billion dollars (that’s less than 1 dollar for every 98 dollars in the federal budget.) To put this in perspective consider these statistics:

Each year Americans spend over $65 billion on illegal drugs and another $315 Billion on rehabilitation facilities and healthcare costs of said drugs. Americans spend $600 Billion in casinos, gambling away money for no other result than to loose it on games of chance. American women spent $7 Billion last year on cosmetics. Also consider that operating the shuttles was NOT the biggest chunk of NASA’s budget. Last year that expense came to just $6.1 billion or $900,000,000 less than lipstick and makeup expenditures for the same period of time!  This is beyond sad, it is sick. On top of all this our kids are functionally illiterate when it comes to science and math aptitude.

Many things could wipe us out. A comet, or astroid collision will inevitably happen and given our lack of interest or foresight we will be fatally unprepared to stop it. NASA will not be there to pull our fat out of the fire. The real tragedy in our country is a population raising kids in homes where the parents operate in total ignorance and outright hostility toward spending anything on basic or applied research, NASA or other such agencies. In short, they are not fit to vote let alone raise kids.  Harsh words, but ask yourself, what is it worth to save our Republic from stupidity and ignorance? The real enemy is not in some foreign country, it is right here.

July 21, 2011, 3am


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