Reaching the Final Frontier
December 10, 2012
Science and science fiction, hand in hand, led me to my fascination with space. The Apollo space program showed the harsh realities and triumphs of venturing into space, while Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek showed what could be in store for us in the future. Roddenberry's optimism that we could overcome our differences and make “space, the final frontier,” coupled with the excitement of our space program really sparked my interest in space and motivated me to study astronomy, physics and engineering. Today, warp drive seems a lot further away than it did when Captain Kirk was commanding the Enterprise. By 2012 I thought we would have set foot on Mars and been to the outer planets in person. It is disappointing to see that exploring the Cosmos has lost the priority it had in the Sixties. Today, we do not take giant leaps for mankind, but creep along, oblivious of the advantages a strong and vibrant space program would bring to this country and for that matter, the world – especially for the children. I am constantly amazed at the science returned from our robotic explorers. The Cassini mission is an amazing program, which is still peeling back the mysteries of Saturn. When we built Cassini we should have built two more and sent them to Uranus and Neptune, reducing our development costs and advancing our knowledge of the Solar System immensely. Voyager 1 and 2 are a testament to our technical ability. They are still returning valuable data after 35 years in space! The Mars rovers far out-lasted their design specifications and Spirit would still be going today if it had not gotten stuck. We have shown that we can do good science with robotics, but they are limited to the tasks they are designed to do. Humans need to venture out, beyond low Earth orbit. The challenges are not insurmountable, but it will take talented people, money and time to overcome them. The final frontier is out there and waiting for us. We have put aside our petty differences on this “Pale Blue Dot” and realize that its all we have. United, we can journey to the stars.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.