Once upon a time, back before many of us in college were born, going into space was only in science fiction. Then, in that same once upon a time, a United States president promised to outdo an enemy superpower and put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
Millions watched in 1969 as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the little ball hanging in the sky. It inspired an entire generation, as millions of children dreamed of one day going up into space.
Then the ratings dropped.
In the decades which followed, more and more people were able to go to space. Americans watched the first woman, the first African-American and the first civilian go up. We watched the Apollo 13, the construction of the International Space Station and Challenger disaster.
Through it all though, it seems that people became less interested in space. An episode of “The Simpsons” captures the mood perfectly when, while Bart and Homer watch TV, a shuttle launch comes on. They both freak out in an effort to change the channel and, failing, unplug the TV. This is a bit exaggerated, but the idea is still there.
As time has gone on, the entire space program has been cancelled. Now if American scientists need to get to space, they hitch a ride with Russia.
The part of this that was the last straw for me happened last weekend. While perusing over a local news affiliate’s website, I caught a story about a new Mars probe that was recently completed. Most of it was built and tested in the beautiful state of Utah. What I found shocking was that the story was buried on the page, beneath stories about Black Friday and lighting up downtown Salt Lake City. The story was gone entirely from the homepage the next day.
So when did we decide that space was boring? I know we haven’t discovered any aliens or cosmic rays that grant super powers yet, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t up there. Space is still the final frontier, the last place humanity has to look for the great discovery. Astronauts are still just as brave and heroic as Armstrong and Aldrin were, they just have better equipment now.
I am a person who grew up watching all the “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and “Firefly” I could handle and I still love the idea and romance that space holds.
So what is it? Will it honestly take an alien invasion or a giant meteor coming to kill us all to get us interested in space again? I hope not. I hope that there are still kids out there who dream about the stars and going to visit them. I hope that the world changes and America gets a new space program up soon. I hope to be alive when we have people being born and growing up somewhere in the black.
Even if that doesn’t happen, I hope the dream stays alive well after I’m gone so that maybe someday, somebody can get up there again.