I’ve been trying to come up with some adequate words to describe my #NASATweetup experience, and the final launch of the space shuttle program. I’ve also been finding out how exceedingly difficult that is. To say that there is no cynicism in my thoughts would be complete denial. For some reason throughout this whole time, I remember back to when I was looking at the old notes of Lettie Carson at the NYPL. Lettie fought the Penn Central valiantly in an attempt to save the Upper Harlem. Eventually, she and the HVTA lost, as we all know the fate of the Upper Harlem. But throughout the fight Carson’s thoughts were apparent on paper – if the rail line is lost, some day we’re probably going to regret it. Despite the disappointment of many people, the United States no longer has a working human spaceflight program. Perhaps one day we will look back on that decision as a mistake. Apparently the desire to explore, and the pursuit of knowledge are no longer as important to the United States as they once were.
For the record, I’m not incredibly depressed about the ending of the space shuttle program – the shuttle had a decent lifespan in terms of technology. The fact that we have no program to replace the shuttle with, that is the depressing part. The fact that the final STS-135 mission had a smaller crew because we would have no means of rescuing them if there was ever a problem is also depressing. But what is most depressing is that we, the country that put men on the moon, now have to pay the Russians to take our astronauts to space – as we have no method to do so ourselves.
Despite all that, however, there are many people at NASA that still have an optimistic outlook on the future. Not only did I get the chance to meet many other space fans, but many interesting people who work for NASA – including a few astronauts. I was amazed at how happy everyone seemed, and how much they all seemed to love their jobs – not just the astronauts, even the regular everyday NASA folks found in the cafeteria (I wonder how many of them, now that the shuttle has landed, are no longer employed). But, as one would expect, the highlight of the tweetup was definitely getting to see the final launch of the space shuttle program from the press area. I will not even attempt to put that into words.
Knowing my tendency to be verbose, and the simple fact that if I keep trying to find the perfect translation of emotions into words this might never get posted, I’m not going to write any more than I already have. Below you’ll find a few of the photos I took on my trip. I don’t think any of them are particularly spectacular, but they are mine, and I was a part (albeit a very small part) of that moment in history.
Things I think we should not forget – for one, the words of one of our great presidents:
Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward. So it is not surprising that some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait… This country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward – and so will space…
But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept…
And to all those kids out there that dream about being being an astronaut – don’t let your hopes be dashed. You might want to make it a point to learn a little Russian, though.