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Where have all the astronauts gone?

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.

About Eric J Cortes

Eric Jude Cortes describes his ethnic background as simply “New Yorker.” The son of an Italian mother and a Puerto Rican father, Eric Jude grew up in a Russian/Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and attended extremely diverse public schools. Eric Jude credits his diverse upbringing with his success professionally, as since 2004 he has been teaching in a public high school with one of the largest percentage of foreign born students in the city. It is this diversity which has shaped his work for Being Latino, which have ranged from a lighthearted musing on the drink Malta, to a passionate diatribe against drug addicts. At the university level, Eric Jude has an MA in History, with a thesis on Contraband in Spanish Puerto Rico, from Brooklyn College. An avid traveler, Eric Jude’s bucket list includes a pledge to visit every Latin American country, something he has complete halfway so far. His secrets to success in life include faith, a type-A personality, and the ability to be silly and break into a dance at moment’s notice. Daily, he can be found running on your local street, lifting weights at your local gym, or praying at your local Catholic church.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


  1. Obama cut the space program then gave billions to muslim nations to develope their space program.

  2. Long time passing…

  3. Tambra, when are you going to the mosque?

  4. There in Russia & China..

  5. Well, dear leader Obama thought that it was more important for NASA to be politically correct, focus on earth bound global warming, do outreach to Moslems (that don’t give a damn about the space program) than to actually have Americans practicing exceptionalism and trying to head for Mars and have America be number one again. I think if anything is going to happen to put America in the forefront of space exploration again is to have the private sector take over. They do things faster, with less red tape and bureaucratic stagnation, and they get better results. Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composites or the Space X company in partnership with Nasa are great examples of private sector can do American ingenuity.

  6. Everyone wants to be an entertainer these days. Too many “American Idol” contestants and not enough scientists. That’s what happens when Conservatives and Creationists dictate policy for 30 years. (Thanks Ronald Reagan).

  7. @ Mario — “Dear Leader Obama?” Can you have any less respect for the Commader-in-Chief? You’re disgusting.

  8. We don’t live in a 3rd world dictatorship (yet) where the “leader” is revered as you would have it. It’s an American thing to criticize those in power, to satirize them, and make sport of them. What about how your Leftist side said things about Bush and Reagan. If you can do that we can do it too. There is no law against disrespecting government officials – maybe where you came from but not here.

  9. No, that’s what happens when the Leftist Democratic teachers unions dumb down the students of America.

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