Talk to any scientist and they’ll tell you that the United States is suffering from a lack of vision. We’re not funding research and development, we’re not looking towards the future, and worst of all we’ve given up on exploration. The US government has all but mothballed the space program. The most powerful nation in the world no longer has the means to send people into outer space. The Russians can do it, we can’t.
What happened? People stopped caring. No one minds the idea of exploration in general, but most polls show that no one is interested enough in it to let the government spend any money on it. Americans no longer really care about the space program. The public outcry over the end of the shuttle program was almost non-existent. Stop anyone on the street and they’ll tell you that it was fun while it lasted, but ultimately all a big waste of money. You’ll get a speech about how we should care more about what’s happening on our planet, rather than waste time thinking about the stars. But that’s not a real reason, just a half-baked excuse. I believe the truth about why exploration no longer matters to America is far more complex and deep rooted, and the solution lies almost entirely on how we treat the next generation of future explorers.
I was nine-years-old and watching, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in the skies over Florida. It was just after lunch on a school day in Texas, and our teachers had gathered the entirety of Leon Heights Elementary School back into the cafeteria to watch the space shuttle launch. We’d done this before, the school often made a big deal out of space shuttle launches, and we’d watch them live on little rollout televisions if they happened during the school day. This one in particular was special, they told us, because a teacher just like one of them, was going up into space on this rocket powered shuttle.