As my wedding anniversary creeps close I am, annually, reminded of the secondary importance of the date. Perhaps subconsciously selected and only seemingly random, it was rather surprising when I was reminded of its stature in history.
I try to remember it all, those first grainy images as a 6 year old as we watched it on the television. Then there were later days in Florida when I built a cardboard mockup of a control panel to try and emulate those on Apollo 13 when I could manage any privacy. There was a kind of immediacy and magic involved - if I could manage to think it hard enough, they would come home.
As an adult I consoled myself with all the movies I could find. This series was a feast, though a melancholy one. I go here now and then to watch the footage and experience it all again, some of the shadowy frames bringing back hints of scents and sensations so long forgotten.
It was, no matter how ruined I was in my early adult years, the only dream I kept - not alive, per se. Merely...a touchstone. If not for all this, I would tell myself, I would be there. So much pain to dull and so little time, though. Years wasted rather than used to cram and try...no, too old, too late, and too damned stupid even then. All so that I could sit here, gently greying with silent tears slipping over a fate long ago decided.
Today, as in those last days of Apollo, no one cares who landed where, who risked what on giant engines of fire. They'll perform a dangerous ballet of connections, visit a hulk that was never given its chance, and surrender all in a final return to a planet, a nation, that has stopped dreaming.
The craft, this last monolith, Atlantis, is already an antique. Contracted in 1979, if you can imagine, it first left earth in 1985. Someday not long from now it will be tethered at KSC and your kids can put their grubby hands on its fuselage - never knowing that it likely was the end of their chance to make that trip.
NASA has not been, in years, what it once was. Some examples of why your tax dollars have been wasted live here and here and here. Look at this chart to see how it all moved from pure science and exploration to...bureaucracy. No matter how much I wish it were otherwise, I know that the private exploration initiatives are now the only way to continue reaching out and away from this nursery of ours.
I cannot help but wonder what we might have done with the better budget - the percentage people thought it was using - rather than the pittance it received. Instead of an EPA slush fund (check out that STAG number and try to figure out how much special favor bullshit will go on with it) we could have a generous amount of serious work done on alternative engines.
It is all academic, though, Graduates aren't even capable of proper grammar. They cannot be expected to understand the concept of extinction level events in history and that, this time, human beings will be the ones going bye-bye. Nice experiment, y'all - been swell...
No, they're too busy with Twitter, murdering mothers, mad mullahs who "just want peace", and the people who Think They Can Dance.
But there is a kind of resignation to it - that "I remember when" nostalgia to ease a person into their decline. Tales to be told to children, "It once was so...". Young men once risked all. Some young men will once again do the same but maybe with feet on ground, hoping to just hold that piece of it against what comes on the horizon. No time, now, for those horizons to stretch to the stars.
No time for dreams.
Farewell, Abandon In Place, and rust in peace.