This week and next, the last Shuttle, Atlantis, will finish a long and glorious program. When they fly her home, it will truly be a bittersweet moment for many. Especially for those who are going to lose their jobs.
According to Rick Neale, writing for FloridaToday.com, more than 23,000 on the Space Coast will be out of work in a short time. There will be a direct loss of 8000 to 9000 jobs at the Cape. If you listen to what the locals are saying in the Titusville area and on the state level in Tallahassee, the job situation on the coast is bleak at best.
Those working in the space industry are in a very precarious position. This is a shame and it should not happen. A lot of others will also lose their jobs—waitresses and waiters, department store clerks, teachers, home improvement store workers, 7-11 clerks, and policemen. Those in the hotel industry, city governments, and in short, everyone who was living and working in the Melbourne and Titusville areas indirectly dependent on the space program for their paycheck.
NASA’s program gave so much to the American people. Almost all of the technology we use today is a direct result of the research required to get us from earth and into space. Today, many regard the technology derived from the space program as necessary for modern life. For instance, I am writing this blog on a laptop computer that, before the space program, was nothing more than a figment of some aspiring engineer’s imagination. If there had not been a space program, this computer and the other electronic marvels we use each day would not be possible. The space program resulted in many more technical and non-technical benefits to our way of life.
With the landing of Atlantis at the end of this mission, America’s space program is complete. For whatever reason, our leadership decided we should no longer explore space. As this program ends, many feel as though this is a mistake.
In more ways than a mere few.
For example, where would the race of man be had the European leaders ceased exploration after they were satisfied Columbus had found the New World? If we did not possess our spirit for exploration, California, Oregon, and Washington State would still be uninhabited lands and the West would still be wild.
We are explorers! It is in our blood. It is what we do. Exploring is the motivation behind our dreams. Moreover, we dream because of what is beyond where we are now; we want, as Captain Kirk said, to know what it is out there, over there, around the bend, or in the next town.
The space race was very important to us in developing as a nation. It gave us so much more than we could have ever imagined. If we had not explored space, we would be a much poorer nation.
We must never stop dreaming… and we should always dare to explore.
©2011 J. Clark
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