Sunday, September 30, 2012

Endeavor's last flight - Remembering the Space Shuttle Program

On September 20, 2012 Space Shuttle Endeavor flew - piggyback on top of a 747 jumbo jet - over Austin, Texas. Austin was one just one of the many cities that was treated to one last view of Endeavor in the air. Through ups and downs, our nation's Space Shuttle program was something to behold. It cost the average American $93 per year. The program was financed by the American people (through our taxes) and may be the last thing we do as a nation without nakedly engaging profit motives and corporations. 

Dr. Mae Jamison at a White House
event in June 2012.
I wonder if this was an interesting week for former African American Studies Major, Peace Corps volunteer and physician, Dr. Mae Jamison.  In one of her other careers, that as an astronaut, she flew as a specialist on Space Shuttle Endeavor mission STS-47 and was the 1st African American woman in space. I wonder what the week has been like for Barbara Morgan - elementary school teacher, then astronaut, and now Boise State University Distinguished Educator in Residence. She flew on STS-118. Barbara was also a member of the Teacher in Space program that was started under Ronald Reagan. She trained with Christa McAuliffe, the 1st school teacher in space, who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986.

My brushes with the space program included attending a launch in Florida (the night sky turned to day as the rockets ignited), and occasionally interacting with astronauts, educators and others with NASA during my time in DC. 

Many of the things we do as a people and a nation are truly amazing. 

I hope that we turn back towards the idea of being a people who support of wonderful (and not necessarily economically profitable) scientific and humanistic endeavors that serve the greater good of our nation and world. The turn towards profit-driven corporations as the answer to our nation's challenges and opportunities is sad. Not only is it doubtful that those with profit-motives will serve the greater good, but on top of it all, it is a soulless way to approach the life of the nation. So give me heroes like the late Ron McNair and Christa McAuliffe, along with the hundreds of living heroes who trained and flew (many of whom by the way are now quietly dynamic and impactful college professors). ... Words can't capture what the 30 year Space Shuttle Program meant to thousands and thousands of people directly and millions indirectly. It is one of the countless American episodes that beautifully display what we are about at our best and what we are capable of. ... Attached is the video I took from STS-130.

Endeavor over the State Capitol
building in Austin
Endeavor over
downtown Austin

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