The Right Stuff
Space was the ultimate test of [American] mettle.
I dare not even think of what our failure to stand tall in the face of uncertainty and adversity says about us. I've become convinced that we've regressed as a society as the dreams of the 20th century have come crashing down around us at the close of the decade of fear, paranoia and the manipulation thereof. It's a minor regression, mind you, and I remain forever optimistic that one day we'll all look beyond the heavens to even greater wonders unknown, but it is a regression nonetheless, putting us on the back foot and giving us undue pause. Our inability to translate the space age daydream into a tangible reality remains our greatest failure at a time when failure seems to be aplenty.
Dreamers dream, always have and will continue, ad infinitum. When we move beyond the need for such abstract human constructs as race, sex, identity, politics, economics, class and the worst parts of religion, then, and only then, perhaps, can we treat space with the respect and awe it rightly deserves. Then, and only then, perhaps, can we begin in earnest the start of our next evolutionary phase: that of living beyond the heavens, and beyond all our petty Earthly neuroses.
Few people have ever had "the Right Stuff," but to those who have, and to all those who were true believers enough to support the work they did [at NASA and elsewhere]: salut [or, if it's more fitting to your own personal beliefs, God-speed]. You are those most deserving of our adoration and admiration and it is to you that we should all look up and from you that we should learn. Without wishing to tarnish my message with negativity (ahem), perhaps we'd be ever more closer to living the dream if we envied and idolized astronauts, scientists and the engineers who support them instead of thug basketball players, racist hick baseball players, narcissistic rock stars or vapid movie Gods. Perhaps. One day. A man can dream, can't he?
Lastly, it is only fitting that Atlantis shall make the last manned journey in an American space-fairing vehicle - at least for now - before our independent manned space program is proverbially lost under the sea. Robots and satellites and telescopes are a fine and an integral part of the overarching plot that is our space endeavor, but they don't carry with them the same mystique as launching a human being off our planet and into the great beyond. A fitting, if bittersweet, end to an era.
It carries with it an optimistic note to the future, though: Atlantis shall rise again.