When I was a kid, growing up, I absolutely adored the astronauts. I loved the thought of spaceflight, and I admired the bravery (and the intelligence) and sheer strength it took to fly into the unknown. My Dad is a pilot, so he always told me the stories of the test pilots, the astronauts, the technology, and the wonder that went into NASA and the creation of the space programs. When I was 12, we went on a trip to the East Coast, hitting Philly and DC. I was in awe of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (and now, as an adult, I could still spend my days there!). I had an Astronaut Barbie, and and Astronaut Cabbage Patch Kid (named Diana, I am pretty sure!). I remember when the Challenger exploded. I can remember watching it live with my grandparents, and then not really understanding what had happened. I remember my school teachers being really upset. I remember when they named one of the "new" schools in Oxnard or Ventura Christa McAuliffe Elementary, and I wondered if the kids would know who she was and how brave and amazing she was. Sometimes, the Space Shuttle would land at Edwards AFB, north of us in Oxnard. My Dad would wake me up so I could hear the sonic boom as the Shuttle glided over us, back to earth. I remember frost on the ground one morning, and I remember seeing the streak of light in the sky.
Today, the last space shuttle landed. I have to admit, I am a little sad about it. I think the going to space has become routine, but no less dangerous. It scares me that we are no longer focused on technology, that people think things like NASA, space exploration, and astronauts are passe. I am sad that kids don't have astronaut play toys, and I am sad that being an astronaut is not longer a valid goal. Don't get me wrong, I understand our country is in a bit of a mess, that the economy is in the toilet, and that people need jobs. I just wish our era of technology, of pushing the envelope, of inventing and creating and fining answers to the unknown, was not really over. I wish our astronauts could stick around a bit longer to inspire another generation of kids to aspire to be whatever they want to be. To reach for the stars