Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: We Have Lift Off! .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We Have Lift Off!

We got back in the space game today. The liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery at 9:39 this morning (CDT) marked our first return to space since the Columbia catastrophe in February of 2003. The launch was not without it's problems, though, as the fuel tank's nose cone hit a (very inattentive and unlucky) bird, and potential debris was recorded falling away from the spacecraft when the two solid boosters seperated from the shuttle.

As we all remember, panels seperated from Columbia during liftoff in 2003, striking the wing and ultimately dooming the spacecraft during re-entry, killing all aboard and scattering the remains across East Texas.
In this case, however, we have the wisdom hard-earned from the last disaster. Unlike the last Columbia mission, the Discovery crew has been notified of the possible problems, and this mission is equipped with repair tools and materials, including "goo" (high tech term), and myriad cameras and radar technologies that can help rectify deficiencies in the integrity of the spacecraft.

They are even equipped with sample faulty tiles to practice on - hopefully not the ones that broke away during the launch. In any event, they have the means to investigate what might have broken away, and evaluate whether it can be fixed or whether they need to stay parked at the International Space Station and wait for AAA to show up.

Seriously, though - is goo, putty knives and caulking guns the best we could come up with in the high tech world of space exploration? I mean, we're talkin' space travel here. Who's our consultant, Bob Vila? You'd think we'd at least come up with something that would fasten down our thermal panels better, like superglue or something.

But, as Harry Anderson would say, "this is a money trick". Space technology is a big budget item in the U.S government. States pay little for it's support, yet reap much in economic benefit for those regions where the dollars land. Mine is one of those states, although I'm several miles away and in a different congressional district. So I'm not benefiting personally from this windfall, and can freely express my opinion on this somewhat controversial subject.

I believe that the medical research conducted in space will help advance our knowledge to help fight disease in a way that research in gravity cannot. Since our administration seems dead set against stem cell research on earth, this is our best chance to help those suffering from life threatening illnesses without massive opposition from the religious right.

Unless, during our research, we come across evidence that there is other life in the universe - because then space exploration will come to a screeching halt. After all, when faced with proof that we are not the only advanced species and therefore God's chosen ones, denial will rule the day.

In the meantime, I support space exploration and research. I believe we should repair the Hubble telescope, and continue to explore the stars and the universe around us. We can learn a lot from studying the origins of the universe and the patterns in our galaxy. With advances in understanding in these areas, we may even be able to predict potential catastrophes that could eradicate mankind, and postulate ways to prevent them.

Which is one of the ultimate goals of science: to prevent catastrophe and and preserve mankind. Even though that may not be the way of nature, which is to eliminate that which poses a threat to it's survival.

But what can I say? I'm a human. I'm obligated to preserve the human race, rgardless of nature's plan for us.


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