Friday, July 01, 2005

"Go for Launch..."

Even after all these years, those three words still send chills up my spine.

I was a child in the 60s, but can still recall the day human beings finally broke away from their planetary cradle and took their first tentative steps out there. I can close my eyes and still see the grainy black-and-white pictures captioned "Live from the Moon," and see Neil Armstrong taking that single step that marked a new chapter in Humanity's rise from barbarism.

So the news that the shuttle Discovery is certified ready for launch on July 13th fills me with hope; hope that we can resume manned space flight on our own, hope that we can shake off the malaise brought on by the two accidents and rebuild the shuttle fleet, hope that we can return to the Moon.

It's been a fat time for space exploration, even with the shuttles grounded. The two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have lived far past their expected lifetimes and have given us our best views of Mars to date. They've even proven that water, actual liquid water, once flowed on that now-dessicated planet.

The Cassini-Huygens probe has performed like a champion. The Huygens probe has given us our first look at a cloudy moon called Titan, and Cassini still enthralls us with pictures and data from saturn and its many moons.

And now, just for the Fourth of July, we will have the Deep Impact probe in its historic encounter with Comet Tempel-1. Fireworks in space, to mirror the fireworks here as we celebrate our country's 229th birthday.


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