No words, no words to describe how I felt after seeing the Space Shuttle break up in pieces and disintegrate over Texas; it is like watching a Greyhound bus falling into a ravine in slow motion, thereís nothing you can do but watch as the bus slowly tumbles down to a certain death. But besides the unfortunate loss of life, as the death of the astronauts is only part of the tragedy, the US space program took another severe hit. The demise of the space program as a whole is what the real tragedy behind this is. And at the core of that tragedy is funding, or rather the lack of funding. Just for example, the NASA has a yearly budget thatís about as much as the Pentagon spends in two weeks. So the organization that was once the pride of the nation, the institute that put the first man on the moon more than 30 years ago, is now fighting a constant battle to make ends meet. Despite that, we trust upon the NASA to keep on bringing people safely back from space and it still serves as a prime example of American engineering excellence.
Granted, the Space Shuttle Columbia has been one of the longest running Space Shuttles in the program and has been in active duty since the 1980ís; no space craft has been in active service for that long, that's quite an achievement. Considering the fact that thereís about 2.5 million parts in the Shuttle and it is one of the most complex machines ever constructed, the engineers deserve all the credit for designing and building it and keeping it running for that long. In the 28 flights it made to outer space the Columbia traveled more miles and endured more physical beating than any other manmade craft in history, still people tend to think of it as a shuttle service much alike the Greyhound that I mentioned above. And like the Greyhound bus it should've been retired and replaced by a new Shuttle a long time ago, instead, due to lack of budget, they kept on operating it until it broke.
But honestly what more proof than this weekendís sad events does one need? Making the Space Shuttle work is one thing, keeping it in active duty is another, but doing that for 20-years is a task that is more than engineering excellence. Hadnít it been for all the budget cuts and the perception in the public eye that space travel had become an easy task ever since the arrival of the Space Shuttle, the 1986 incident should have increased NASAís budget and make the organization financially sound. Unfortunately it didnít, sure, we saw a power struggle among management and some finger pointing as the defect of the 1986 crash had been anticipated for by the engineers, yet management chose to launch anyway, and we all know what that led up to. In the end NASA was still left to fight for their budget and the continuation of the US space program.
People that know me might understand why I feel so passionate about this and why I think space exploration is critical to the survival of mankind. Iíve always been intrigued by space exploration, ever since I was a kid and saw the first Space Shuttle lift off the launch pad in 1981. If youíve read my personal profile
at Hardware Analysis youíll learn that Iíd have gladly traded places with a NASA engineer in the Ď60s when NASA indeed lived itís greatest moment by putting a man on the moon in 1969. Thatís more than 30 years ago today and I still feel the US should have put so much more effort behind the exploration of space, unfortunately intelligence and meddling with other peopleís affairs in countries abroad seemed to be much more important, but really arenít in the grand scheme of things. As what purpose is being served? Protecting the oil reserves that if destroyed will make the US industry come to a grinding halt? It is all for pure economic reasons, and it has always been that way, however Washington chooses to pitch it.
If I listen to President Bushís speeches I feel heíd rather start World War III and further dominate the Arab nations just to safeguard the oil reserves than to think of the wellbeing of mankind. For example, does NASA receive any funding for tracking earth bound meteorites? Or devising a means of deflecting or destroying them? A simple piece of rock of just a mile in diameter can wipe out the entire human civilization, howís that for a weapon of mass destruction? By comparison those few dozen chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein might have tucked away in some bunker somewhere are like comparing a firecracker to a whole arsenal of atomic bombs. It is about time that the US government puts budget towards where it is most needed, if it wants to be the Big Brother thatís watching over the wellbeing of mankind.
The biggest threat for mankind is not coming from a few rogue states with questionable means to do any real damage. And the biggest threat isn't usually fought with brute force either; global warming, famine, disease and educating the 3rd world nations doesn't need a squadron of Stealth bombers but rather our care and attention to detail. There are however bigger dangers looming in the deep and dark outskirts of space that pose a far greater threat. Who do you think wiped out the dinosaurs and simply killed off 65-million years of evolution? It sure wasnít any weapon of mass destruction devised on this planet I can assure you.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those brave men and women that dared to take a risk for the better of mankind, they lost their lives in trying to achieve their goals and make this world a better place.