I've been harping about the demise of the shuttle program and NASA's lack of direction lately. I really think we are missing a grand opportunity--not just to explore space, but the opportunity to enrich our lives here on Earth.
Many of our advances in microchips, lighter metal alloys, fuel cells, and other technological, medical, and scientific achievements have come about from the space program. By and large those breakthroughs have seeped into our daily lives and are now commonplace in devices we use and take for granted.
But the space program also gives us a chance to imagine and wonder. It gives us something to reach for. It gives us real heroes worth emulating, unlike shallow "reality" stars who want more than fifteen minutes of fame or pro-athletes who run afoul of the law and their marriages.
Aaron Robinson, a columnist for Car & Driver recently wrote a column on this very subject. And he puts things more succinctly than I can. You can read Aaron Robinson's column by clicking here.
I agree with what Robinson writes. We need imagination. We need to work hard and achieve great things, not focus on material wealth and instant gratification. We need to inspire our kids to be come scientists and engineers. We also need something that lifts our collective spirits, which is why we love movies like "The Blind Side" or get teary eyed when communities come together to help trapped miners or send aid to places like Haiti.
As Americans, and as people on Earth, we need reminding that we are a part of something bigger. During the financial crisis last year, governments threw money around, bailing out just about any institution that qualified as some sort of bank. It is time now to bail out our imaginations and the human spirit. Returning to the Moon, or a similarly ambitious journey, is the first step.