Everyone likes staring into space from time to time. From lovers laying on a field on a moonless night, to an elderly gardener taking a break after tending to his azaleas late in the evening, the world above us has been admired, revered, and, explored.
Taking a long midnight run through Prospect Park last week, I found myself playing with the questions that we all bat around from time to time. “Are we alone here?” “If the universe keeps expanding, what’s it expanding into?” “If aliens hear the Ricky Martin songs we’ve been beaming into space… will they also ask ‘Is he…?'”
When I got home, I read a blurb in Time Magazine about how noted Hispanic astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, had retired. Lopez-Alegria holds the NASA record for most time in space, and most time in space walks. This got me thinking, “whatever happened to the astronauts?”
Space travel used to be a big deal. A product of the Cold War and a testament to our national resolve, in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, the United States competed with the Soviet Union and made all sorts of cool accomplishments like sending monkeys into space, and sticking an American flag onto the moon. Winning!
But, then it all seems to have changed and became kind of boring. My memories of 1980s and 1990s NASA accomplishments are of astronauts testing the effects of weightlessness on some boring animal, or two guys from the Midwest floating next to some guy from Russia answering questions from fifth graders in Vermont. Oh, and let’s not forget the period receiving images from the Hubble Telescope, that still aren’t cool as the images from George Lucas or James Cameron. And now, the space shuttles have been decommissioned and the United States waits for its next home-grown way of sending people beyond the atmosphere.
The time has come for real accomplishments. Let’s put a man on an asteroid already; or at least make it obvious to the world that we’re trying. China, India, and Brazil are all building up their space programs. Let’s do something drastic and impressive that shows that they are still light years behind us.
Think of all the cool inventions that came from space exploration: enriched baby food, scratch resistant glass, sneaker insoles, and smoke detectors. Imagine what other cool inventions could reach us with a much more assertive push into outer space. As Latinos, a renewed, government backed, competitive push into outer space will result in more of our people becoming involved in science and math.
We can do this. Our national pride and our global superiority are at stake.