This Saturday, I was privileged to go to the Kennedy Space Center, yet again. I have been doing this all my life, nearly every year. My dad, the big guy in the middle, has worked there the whole time. This year was a little different though. This could be the last time we get to do this. The space shuttle program is ending with some speculation that the ARES program, the future of space exploration, will also be canceled. This particular open house was extra special, it was a family event, where only certain areas got to bring in people. We got a tour of OPF 3 (that’s orbital processing facility) while it was housing Endeavor. Interestingly, this is the same shuttle that was there during the brief time I worked in logistics there. Then, we got to go to the launch pad. Normally, people don’t get to “go” to the launch pad. Normally, you drive by it in a procession of many aggravated engineers and their families. This time, we actually parked, and walked up the slope to stand in a place that flames consume each time the shuttle is launched. Even more special, there was (and still is) a shuttle prepared and ready to go on the launch assembly. IT was something I’ll never forget. So in a rather weird mix of emotions, I found myself smiling ear to ear and feeling like crying a little. The shuttle has been a part of my life, all my life. The first one launched the first year I was born, and the last one will launch this year, before I turn 30. Why do I care? I don’t know. I guess it might be because I know that the end of this program will herald the end of this area. Brevard county has been my home, and the entire economy here is built on space. There’s not a store you go in that doesn’t tout some sort of memorabilia. Roads are commonly named after missions and astronauts, and we even have a town named Satellite. Maybe the end of the program will bring new industry here, but that probably won’t happen soon. I’m just worried what will.
While the Space Shuttle isn’t our only option for space travel, our current President and his constituents are seemingly uninterested in space at all. There have been zero visits tot he Space Center, little interest in funding (1% of the budget), and now talk of privatizing space flight altogether. What a mistake. Other countries are advancing, finding new technologies, and will reach space goals much faster than we can. Welcome, to the dark ages, America. Get ready to speak Chinese.