I have spent a lot of this long 4th of July weekend watching NASA try to launch the space shuttle Discovery on mission STS-121. So far there have been two aborts due to weather. I have my fingers crossed today that they will finally get off the ground. I grew up wathcing NASA and the manned space program. I remember vividly watching first the Mercury program followed by Gemini, Apollo, and finally the landings on the moon. The space program has shaped who I am and provided me with some of the most exciting moments of my life. But ever since the last manned landing on the moon in 1972 the space program has lost a lot of its excitement. To think that for the last 34 years the only other manned space program has been the space shuttle is simply unbelievable to me. Yes there was the Space Lab and then the international space station, but it seems the pace of development and exploration via manned spacecraft has declined dramatically.
The space shuttle has only a few missions left before it is retired and yet NASA has no replacement program in the forseable future. NASA has plans for manned exploration of the Moon and Mars but the timetable for those is stretched to far for my liking. It seems to me that private industry has done more for manned space exploration in the last few years than NASA has. A lot of the problem stems from public apathy towards space exploration, political fighting, as well as budgetary constraints. I don’t have 35 more years left to me in which to wait for manned exploration on the scale that I witnessed as a child and growing up. NASA needs to find a way to re-invent themselves and start developing and implementing a manned space program of the same scale and grandeur of the 60’s and 70’s. I just hope that I am still around when we finally get around to landing men on Mars. I only hope that it happens sooner than expected and that I will live to see other planets besides Mars explored by man.