It was former President George W. Bush who enacted the end of NASA's space shuttle program, set for this year, but he did so in order to make way for a new program, which he promised would usher in new technology, bring humans to Mars and give new breath to the dying space program. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, President Obama canceled plans for the new program, reduced funding to NASA overall and decided to continue the termination date on the shuttle program -- basically killing NASA in one fell swoop.
The launch of Atlantis tomorrow marks the last space shuttle launch for the NASA, which inevitably also marks the end of a distinctly American childhood culture -- the astronaut dream.
Even Russian astronauts feel stunned by the move, according to the Associated Press; American shuttles are still the best way to travel to and from space, and canceling the program takes America out of the lead completely. Now, when Americans need to travel to the International Space Station, they will be hitching a ride on Russian rockets.
This shocking move will shut down possibly 6,000 jobs in the United States, will leave Florida spotted with ghost-town tributes to a bygone era and, most heartbreakingly, it seems, will eliminate space travel from the American childhood dream
There's an Eddie Izzard skit in his show Dressed to Kill, in which he pokes fun of the British dream -- basically nonexistent -- noting that the American dream is truly the stuff of aspiration and vivaciousness. American children are literally encouraged to reach for the moon, because at one point, Americans did reach the moon -- a nostalgic moment in time for our parents' generation, who sat crossed-legged and big-eyed as young children watching the landing on TV and dreaming of space exploration, finding new life and planets and boldly going where no man (and now woman) would dare to go.
Ever since, American children have always seemed to know that being an astronaut was on the table.Star Wars, The Jetsons, Star Trek, Mork and Mindy
, Ziggy Stardust,E.T., X-Files
, Buzz Lightyear -- the list of pop icons goes on and on. Every child for the last forty or so years knows how to count a rocket into launch, what a space suit looks like and that being an astronaut is the hardest-to-get and most prestigious profession America has to offer.
Tomorrow, for many people, the "dream" drops out of "American Dream." There have been too many heartbreaks and set-backs in the last ten years to take losing the space program -- a program that traditionally offers hope in time of crisis -- without some melodrama about our future.
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Because now it seems our children are a part of Izzard's quip on the British -- a country whose children will be bottle-fed on legacy and not future dreams.
"I wanna be an astronaut," Izzard mimes in a mock-English child's voice during his skit. "Well, you're British," he responds, in a school counselor's voice, "So scale it back a bit." He changes back to the child's voice: "Fine. I want to be a garbage man."