There used to be a time not to long a go when our imaginations were the most important things we possessed. When the people of note and the “reality TV” celebrities were the people that were brave enough to go where no man had gone before. Scientists, inventors, and explorers were heralded as champions for their courage and their achievments, not the people that were chasing the most amount of fame or money. The Jacque Cousteau’s and the Neil Armstrong’s of the world used to be the heroes of the people. Now it is Kim Kardashian and the rest of her klan, the cast of Jersey Shore, and the Charlie Sheens of the world that people look to for influence and to serve as their role models. When did we as Americans trade in our curiosity, imagination, bravery, and sense of discovery for spray tans, ethical ambiguity, a pair of Fidelity jeans, and a Ben Sherman cardigan?
There have been a lot of exciting things happening in the world today in the media, the unrest and uprising in the middle east and continued blood shed in Syria, the budget concerns and spending of the federal governemnt in the US of A, the ridiculous demolition derby that has become the bid for the GOP presidential nomination, and the nuclear stalemate with Iran, Israel, and the rest of the world, to name a few. However there was one event that took place almost a year ago today that received very little coverage and somehow “flew” under the radar of the media’s ever so watchful and informative eye. That event was the decommissioning of one of the primary vessels used for space exploration. The Space Shuttle Discovery made its final journey into space after having docked with the international space station for the last time March 19, 2011, and is now resting in an aeronautical museum as its final mission. When all was said and done, Discovery had successfully flown 39 missions, completed 5,247 orbits, and spent 322 days in orbit. It was first put into orbit in 1984 and after almost 30 years of reliable service it was time for our space program to trade in the old pick-up truck for a new sleek-modeled hybrid. The only problem is that there isn’t a new hybrid, bike, wagon, or anything for that matter to take its place. The funding that used to be abundant to conduct this kind of research has dried up, and the powers that be in Congress are no longer putting a premium on exploration and innovation.
Now the question that must be addressed is what of the vessel that will be replacing it? The money that would be spent by NASA and JPL and the scientists whose job and passion is to create these next generation of vehicles for us to explore the unknown is dwindling. Our money is instead being spent on ways to destroy the life on this planet instead of trying to find a way to propagate it. It is being horded by an infinitesimal percentage of people on this planet bent on making it that much less hospitable. We have a unique ability over the other animals on this planet to be able to build and create using our imaginations, yet we choose to use it to destroy and devastate. We have the distinctive opportunity in the next few decades to explore one of our neighboring planets, the Red Planet, Mars. But, instead of people being excited and wanting to spend our money on this we are using it to fund wars, subsidize gluttonous oil companies, and bail out banks and their voracious CEO’s.
What about our desire to see what is beyond our atmosphere, beyond our planet, and our solar system? Have we given up the dream to reach out past the stars and see what else there is? I thought as human beings we sought answers to the unknown and had a natural curiosity that drove us to explore. It would seem that we have been placated with video games, “reality” TV, and McDonald’s. The natural order of life, of building, of growing, of standing on the shoulders of giants to see what lay beyond the mountain tops, has been replaced with an unnatural order of life to see who will be Americas next “Voice.” We’ve replaced our curiosity and desire to explore with a desire to do nothing and curiosity in celebrities’ lives that we wish were our own. Our lives are more than what we have given them credit to be. I believe Nobel prize winning author TS Elliot said it best when he mused, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” When we realize that we have the ability to explore, create, imagine, build, grow, and develop we will be working toward discovering what we as human beings can really achieve.