My generation’s JFK moment, the odd joiner-event that most people remember where they were or what they were doing, was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on lift-off some twenty-plus years ago. I was in second grade, and if memory serves my bat-shit-crazy teacher proceeded to tell us that the astronauts were going to live with the angels. And that the communists were some how to blame because they didn’t go to church and ate babies while sharpening their devil-horns. Yeah, my primary school education was awesome, no wonder I can’t do mental math or spell.
Fast forward and NASA seems to trying to recapture the golden years of Apollo with the Constellation program, a new model of rocket and a colossal amount of cash spent on, as far as I can tell, very pretty artists renderings (you could probably rebuild five ninth-ward houses in New Orleans for what they’ve spent on flash work on their site…and you could also probably rebuild an entire city with what they’ll spend on actually getting us to Mars). A good PR effort to distance themselves from two lost shuttles and the unfortunate incident with the adult diapers.
It’s hard not be interested though. To get inspired by spacecrafts named after greek gods again. We could use something like this on our national psyche, something besides suicide car-bombers on the news (when did something that awful become common-place) – a little hope and, not to be cheesy, but a little adventure. We used to be a nation of explorers, now we have handrails on sidewalks that drop off more than a foot, a childhood obesity problem and reality TV (the ultimate contradiction in terms). Used to be, seven people would risk their lives to hop in a spacecraft with a bazillion-and-a-half moving parts (designed in the 70’s built and by the lowest-bidding-sub-contractor to boot) just to push out a little farther, to explore a little more. Maybe its worth the money, maybe that’s why the Challenger was such an important event for us. We could use a little inspiration.