White Dog, The Other White Dog, Another White Dog, Still Another White Dog and Yet Another White Dog looked at me in amazement. "Why would anyone want to get into a Shuttle which has no sunshine or green grass or backyard and go into space," Nuka asked. They did not accept the idea of a human need to find new frontiers and push into the unknown and conquer what isn't naturally theirs.
Steve and I were discussing the Atlantis which safely touched down today, ending the flawless final mission of NASA's space shuttle program. Effectively, this morning's landing ended an era in America. For all practical purposes the manned space exploration program is essentially dead.
Steve explained to the White Ones that the space program has been a constant of our generation's lives. It began when we were toddlers (Puff gasped when Steve mentioned 1958). We were in grade school when we, at assembly, gathered around a TV in the gym to watch the lunar landing. Astronauts were heroes and we all dreamed of one day making a giant leap for mankind.
The idea of space exploration filled our play and populated our entertainment. The program's technologies brought about advances in building materials, communications, insulation, and structural engineering. Remember Space Food Sticks? Pop Tarts? Cheese in a can? These, too came from NASA. Quinn interrupted to explain to his siblings, "Space food sticks taste kind of like those cheap processed and pressed soft dog treats but for some reason human children loved them and their individual foil pouches." I looked at him in wonder and he smiled as he shrugged.
But it was more than that. It was an era when we still thought about the stars and reaching heaven and being filled with wonder at our incredible Universe. I could see from their eyes the White Dog Army was starting to understand.
I told them that it was this fertile time of no longer being earthbound and of limitless possibility that made me choose Aerospace Engineering and Illinois Insitute of Technology for my first college experience. I went expecting to design space ships capable of intergallactic travel (and yes, in one of my projects even made consideration for the fact that humans needed pet companions...White Dog cheered under her breath). I wonder what future generations will find as their catalyst?
Yes, in many ways government spending is out of control and certainly cuts need to be made but there seems like there is so much waste that should be attended to before we shut the door on the space program. Somewhere in this all shouldn't we ask, "What price, dreams?"