America’s space flight initiatives are in an odd place right now – trying to privatize our programs, but not offering very good reasons for companies to do so (i.e., financial reasons). A fair number of people feel that with the end of the shuttle program, the U.S. is giving up on the dream.
But oh, we want that dream so badly! For all those who grew up on Robert Heinlein novels and 2001: A Space Odyssey, who would have committed murder for a chance to go to space camp or to experience weightlessness, the days of NASA’s glory in the 1960s and ‘70s were a time when literally anything was possible. There is nothing like living in a nation that is in the process of dreaming big and bold.
And we did it! We held our collective breath and jumped into the starry abyss. Some died, others suffered. We spent millions of dollars that maybe we didn’t quite have. But we had a dream, and we had heroes, and we finally had success. We went to the moon.
Ever since, collectors have assembled some impressive collections of space stuff. From autographs, badges, and vintage programs to equipment, flown items, and even spacesuits, collectors maintain the hope of space flight and of mankind expanding out into the universe. As we’ve built the space station, gone to Mars, sent out flying labs – we keep hanging on to the dream.
A couple of days ago, President Obama announced a new NASA mission to find, capture, retrieve, and explore an asteroid. The goal is to deliver a crew to an asteroid parked near the moon by 2021, as a move toward sending humans to Mars while also learning about how to protect Earth from asteroids. Some hope for the future, certainly.