As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. I would spend hours trying to peer through the haze of city lights to see the constellations above me. PBS shows about the planets fascinated me. Star Wars and Star Trek were, of course, the mythologies upon which childhood fantasies were based.
My parents let me stay home from school so I could watch the launch of Columbia. I remember a snowy February day in 7th grade when Challenger to quote Ronald Reagan, "touched the face of God." The idea of one day travelling to the stars filled me, and most kids I knew, with dreams.
Of course my horrible eyesight was an early indicator that the only way I would see space was through a telescope but, my fascination with space and our attempts to understand it, remained. NASA was an organization on the cutting edge. It was America's future and also, the world's future. All of the problems and conflicts of our planet didn't matter when seen from the perspective of a greater universe.
The space program has always been held up as an example of what we are capable of and what the future can hold. Students were encouraged to consider careers in math, science, and engineering, the living legends of space exploration standing before us like Prometheus bearing fire. Telling us to continue what they began.
Today, Prometheus' fire went out. The space shuttle has been retired and replaced by... nothing. No bigger dreams, no greater challenges, no sense of hope. The belief in the future has been replaced by present battles over budgets. Politicians pit haves, have nots, have somes, want mores, etc, against each other. Instead of looking up at the skies in hope and wonder, we stare at each other in anger and hate. The stars remain above, timeless and eternal. They sit in judgement as they did for the Greeks and Romans and all those who once looked up and then looked away to focus on conflict rather than progress. Tonight, as they have before when they were forgotten, the stars weep and hope for the day when man will again look up.