Getting Up There and Getting it Done

English: John Glenn Source: http://www.tecom.u...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m working on a post on the 2011 Spinoffs, but the going has been slow.  Today I’m a grandfather for the second time (yay!) and I’ve been working on a promotion at work and these things have limited my time lately.  I’m at the second level of research on the Spinoff post and I’ll try to get it out this week.

In the mean time, another event has occurred today of such magnitude that I would be remiss if didn’t write about it.  50 years ago today, John Glenn became the first NASA astronaut to orbit the Earth.  This was an out of this world effort (yes, pun intended) with a high degree of risk that we don’t tolerate anymore in these post-cold-war times.  It quite rightly made Glenn a national hero.

“Sometimes you just have to punch it!” — Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek Voyager.

Where is that spirit today?

After Glenn, NASA went on to take more risks and commit to a moon program for which the technology, along with the answers to several mission-critical questions, had not yet been worked out.  They worked it all out on the move to their goal, lunged out ahead, and rode that success like a rocket to make the United States of America the tech leader of the world for five decades.

Today we still have human spaceflight via the ISS, but the Russians lift our astronauts up there.  We also face the challenge of Mars.  Our country is the most successful at sending stuff to Mars and still folks hedge and hesitate and worry and retreat.  Yes, I said retreat.  If the Space Launch System is so important, and we need it so badly, and it’s so expensive that we have to sacrifice participation in important fact-finding robotic missions to Mars in order to afford this Mars rocket, then let’s do something bold and Earth-shaking…

…lets increase NASA funding to make up the difference.

I’m serious!

In a discussion online yesterday someone actually suggested that giving a dollar to everyone on the planet would do more good than funding the James Webb Space Telescope.  Sure, on the surface that looks like an ok suggestion, but the ocean has a surface too, and it hides a huge amount of important stuff underneath for folks who care enough to look outside the tranquil ignorance of tunnel vision.  The money that goes into the space program goes into the pockets of taxpayers–except for the money that we now pay the Russians to launch our astronauts that is.

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting.  I actually posted today to share with you this cool video about the day John Glenn became the fastest man alive.

Watch and learn.  Strip away those dirt-side blinders.  This is the spirit of exploration.  This is what we have done as a country.  This is what we must do again.

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~ by Bill Housley on February 20, 2012.

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