Many young adults are lamenting the release of the 8th Harry Potter film. Not only because it means the end of a fantastic story, but it marks, for them, the end of childhood. The Sorcerer’s Stone was released when they were just beginning to enjoy reading. Over the past 13 years, these young folks have read the books over and over again. The movies only gave them more of Harry to enjoy. And now it’s all over.
NASA events and research punctuate my childhood. I have vivid memories of huddling with other 4th graders in front of an 25″ t.v. screen in the school library to watch a shuttle launch. (Remember when schools only had one or two televisions for all the classrooms to share.) My teacher/school made a gigantic deal over the first school teacher to go into space; Christa McAuliffe was idolized. I’ll always remember the ’86 Challenger disaster.
Space Camp was a favorite movie. I loved to pretend I was an astronaut. NASA and its shuttle program were featured in countless issues of Weekly Reader. I learned about the research of Biosphere II and the coming moon settlement. The International Space Station was billed as my bridge to the future. Each year, I updated my encyclopedias with new articles from NASA. I followed the Voyager satellites on their treks across our solar system. I have ooh-ed and aah-ed over the images from Hubble. And through it all, the shuttle made space travel possible.
NASA’s mission of space exploration is not going to change — even now they are working on a way to safely convey men to Mars within the next few years. But that doesn’t mean I’m not saddened to see the end of the shuttle program.