Or will the grandeur of space flight fade into myth and metaphor? President Obama referred to "our generation's Sputnik moment" in his State of the Union address this week. He was talking about investment in research and development—in areas like clean energy and biomedicine and information technology. Not space.
Is continued exploration of the solar system simply beyond our collective powers of focus and imagination? With earthbound disasters—natural and man-made and hybrid—striking on an almost daily basis, is there any hope that humanity will ever find the time, the money, and the spirit to reach for Mars and beyond? If saving our own planet from ourselves seems beyond our political will, how can we resume a push to worlds beyond?
It's sobering to think that a small boy who watched the moon landings might live out a full life and finally die of old age without ever seeing that kind of exploratory spirit return.
Challenger photo: Bruce Weaver/AP Photo