Oh man. This EPISODE. I promised last week that I would have things to say, and as it turns out, I have a lot of things to say
.( SPOILERS! )
There's something that I've known but never before processed - almost no other country has a space program like the United States does. Or rather, did. Russia does. In about six months, the only way into space will be on a Russian capsule, so maybe I shouldn't knock the rest of the world so much. However, the fact remains that I've always thought of space travel as a kind of transcendent international goal, when really a lot of it has happened in my backyard.
I grew up in Houston, which is where U.S. astronauts live and train and where Mission Control is. (Houston, we've had a problem.") I went on field trips to the Johnson Space Center about six times before high school, and my high school friends and I still truck out to the Brazos Bend Observatory every August to watch the Perseids. When Columbia went down, it seemed like the whole city was walking around like we'd been punched in the stomach, because seven people had died, and all the news would talk about was whether we should be going into space at all, given the lack of "practical applications." I know every kid wants to be an astronaut at some point, but it takes a special kind of crazy to try to brew jet fuel in your bathtub so you can launch your own rocket. I never did that, because my dad had some very reasonable objections, but I had friends who did. I've worked in a lab partially funded by NASA. When the Endeavor launch was delayed yesterday, about six of my friends posted disappointed status updates. It still breaks my heart that there's nothing to replace the shuttle program when it dies.
All of which goes to say that I know that the space program is important to me, and to the people around me. But these two episodes had this wonderful, mythic love for the space program that wasn't quite in line with what I've experienced. It was like going to a service in someone else's religion; all the standard elements were there, but just a little bit - off.
So, non-American friends - Am I way off-base? Is space travel as important everywhere else as it is here? Do you think of it as an international effort, or is it another thing that the US ropes the world into doing? Scifi would suggest the former, but hey - a lot of that's written by Americans. Drop a comment, please - I'm genuinely curious.