The Space Shuttle Discovery launched on February 24th for it’s 39th and last mission to the Space Station. My guess is that we all have become complacent in paying attention to the marvels of man’s ingenuity. Record crowds lined the Space Coast of Florida to see it’s last flight before retirement.
During the last week of January, I was visiting my daughter, Sarah who lives about 35 miles from the Cape. I volunteered to pick up takeout Mexican Food at the CANTINA. It was a slow Monday night, and while I was standing by the bar waiting for my order, an obvious regular named “Chuck” said hello. We struck up a conversation and I learned that he had a long 12 hour day. A little more probing revealed he has amassed a 20+ year career with a private company that designs components for NASA. In between chewing a Burrito, he managed to tell me that he will be out of work in 3 months.
I never really said much more than hello, but his bitterness for losing his job, was not just about him. He asked questions as if I knew the answers. “Do you know how many private companies are in existence because NASA? Do you know how many people will be redirected to the unemployment lines? Do you know how the United States is to remain a Super Power by converting NASA to ‘Muslim Culture Research’ ?” As he wiped his plate with a flour tortilla, he told me I’d better get that food back to my family. We shook hands and we went our own ways.
On the way back to Sarah’s, in my mind’s eye I saw the headlines “DISCOVERY RETIRED”. Then I thought, what if the day Christopher Columbus was to sail to America, someone came up to him and said, “Sorry Sir, Discovery is Retired.” and what about the early settlers when they pushed west, the army stopped them and said, “Discovery is Retired”. How about Lewis and Clark? The California Gold Rush? What about Thomas Edison? What about landing on the moon in 1969? The Retiring of the Shuttle Discovery is a bigger picture than just a rocket. The Private sector and American owned companies met the challenges and supplied the technology and stretched the limits to make “New Discoveries” which gave us the Super Power status. The closing of NASA as we know it, is the Nail in the Coffin of Discovery.