30 years of space exploration ends

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By Becca Owsley

Since 1981, America has been sending shuttles into space. Sadly, that era ended July 21 when space shuttle Atlantis touched down for the very last time.

Growing up, I wanted to be several things: an archeologist, jet fighter pilot, movie director and astronaut. For me, space is fascinating. Granted, much of what I enjoy about space is probably derived from fiction, namely “Star Wars.” But the actual true and legitimate outer space always has engaged my brain.

One thing that captivates my thoughts is the sure vastness of space. Solar system after solar system, it goes on forever. What an amazing and imaginative creator we have to have come up with the concept of space and all its complexities.

I’ve also always enjoyed reading and studying about the initial “space race” and the astronauts who had the “right stuff” to take those first missions. I think about what it must have been like to be glued to the television set, witnessing the first steps taken on the moon.

When the shuttles first started launching into space I wanted to go with them. After seeing the film “Space Camp” (and yes, many of my childhood dreams were a result of a movie I saw) I wanted to attend a camp. I even went as far as getting information about going to space camp but never went.

But there also was tragedy. I remember the day in 1986 when I was huddled with many in the library at Lynnvalle Elementary School to watch the launch and tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. It’s one of those moments you always will remember where you were and what you saw.

With the grounding of the space shuttle program there will be a large gap of American space exploration. NASA has another project in the works called the Orion MPCV that is supposed to take us further into space than previous methods. It still is in testing phases so it could be years before it is operational.

For me, this gap is sad. With most of the planet earth explored our pioneer spirit only has one other place to search — space. The exploration is limitless. I know the program is expensive and might not have a lot of impact on the human condition. But for me, going into space is exciting, adventurous and down right cool.

And personally, this little hiccup in the program is going to make me have to completely rethink a fiction story I have in my head about a scientific colony on the moon. But that really has no impact in the world in general. It will just make me have to be a bit more creative in thinking about the character’s transportation to the moon.

Overall, I am sad the space shuttle program is over. It was something that began when I was a child and is a part of my own timeline in history.

I hope NASA still is able to send people into space and that we do get to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations. Maybe, just maybe, if the new program is developed we truly will be able to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.