Saturday, July 9, 2011

Going Up!: Farewell to a Space-faring Legacy

The Space Shuttle Atlantis just had its final flight yesterday. An amazing era in space exploration has just ended, hopefully to start a new one. For one who grew up watching and liking "Iron Giant*", "Apollo 13". "Mission to Mars" or even "Contact", this news unsurprisingly tugged a small string in my heart.

As a child, it was my dream to fly up high into the unknown skies. To boldly go where no man has gone before. Or at least, to boldy follow where others have gone before. It was my innocent ambition to be the first Filipino to travel to space.

But living in a poor country, I would soon realize that these ambitions seem futile. Can our government even fathom space travel if we don't even have an efficient 'ground' travel system? Our most ambitious transportation system is the MRT-LRT system and they are not even working efficiently. Can we launch a spacecraft to the sky if our armed forces don't even have a good missile launching defense system? Are the heavens just too high for us?

In a country as ours, it is just practical to solve our terrestrial problems first (and there are a lot.) I guess for us, the heavens just have to wait.

Regarding the space shuttle's last launch, I find the statement of U.S. President Obama very inspiring:

"Today’s launch may mark the final flight of the Space Shuttle, but it propels us into the next era of our never-ending adventure to push the very frontiers of exploration and discovery in space. We’ll drive new advances in science and technology. We’ll enhance knowledge, education, innovation, and economic growth. And I have tasked the men and women of NASA with an ambitious new mission: to break new boundaries in space exploration, ultimately sending Americans to Mars. I know they are up to the challenge – and I plan to be around to see it."

A new space age dawns. Now, the target is Mars. But really, why do we even want to go risk lives, spend lots of resources just to go to space? In itself, space exploration doesn't even have any significant applications to our lives. What's with the fascination?

Warren Ellis' answer is "because it's waiting for us and it's where we're meant to be". I think I want to read "Orbiter" again.

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