I had a nightmare last night. A very nerdy nightmare*.
During the space shuttle’s ascent in to low earth orbit, I was dropped out of the space shuttle’s cargo bay strapped to an osprey. Somehow, both the osprey and I survived our descent. I know what you are thinking. The poor osprey’s wings should have snapped into pieces the moment it tried to provide lift for the two of us. This, my friends, was a key point in my complaint to the NASA authorities. I also suspected that my publicly stated preference for unmanned space exploration was a factor in the decision to drop me into the upper atmosphere. I have no idea what the osprey did to piss NASA off.
And, here is the really nerdy part. Do you know how I knew this dream was not real in the dream itself? I knew the dream could not be real because even the depths of my subconscious were aware that the space shuttle program had been cancelled. According to straw man portrayals of manned space exploration advocates, the end of the people on the tips of rockets era** was the end of space exploration as an endeavor that would inspire future scientists.
Which reminds me, in the wee hours last night, our species successfully lobbed a robot at another planet. According to all reports, the Curiosity rover is on Mars and sending back data. If that is not an aspiring human achievement, I don’t know what is.
Come to think of it, this may have all just been a metaphor for my unrealized childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut.
*I’m pretty sure this nightmare was the result of a liberal mixture of excitement over the Mars Science Laboratory’s impending collision with Mars, sadness over the death of Sally Ride, and being forced to watch The Rescuers Down Under thirty times by small, persistent children.
**Technically, we still can put people on the tips of rockets. It’s just that the US government now has to pay other people (including the possibility of American private industry) to do so. As we all know, if it isn’t being done by the US government, it isn’t inspiring.