Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Picture of a Saturn V launch in my living room


Someone pointed out to me recently that the year 1990 is now closer to the July 20, 1969 moon-landing than we are to the year 1990. For most people that are old enough to remember 1990 (just barely for me) this is somewhat surprising. It’s simple math: 43 years since Apollo 11 and 22 years since 1990. I usually get tired of people pointing out “oh my god, do you realize [thing that happened when they were a kid] was [X] years ago?!” Time is very predicable, so it’s a bit silly to become surprised that 43-22=21. However, as I said in this post last month as Discovery left Florida for the last time, it is important for the space community to come to terms with what is now history. So, in the interest of moving on, let’s build some perspective.


Part of what prompted me to write this post was a recent slew of articles popping up about “new amateur Challenger footage” being revealed. I’ve seen at least 3 unique videos, which I won’t repost here (if you want to relive that event, there’s plenty of video out there), claiming to be newly released videos of the event. I’m no historian, but a tragic event must be pretty old for new footage to make Brian Williams’ show on NBC. Challenger was lost 26 years ago. Novak Djokovic, current world number 1 tennis player, was born well over a year after Challenger and has already managed to win 5 Majors and $36.5 million dollars. Lindsay Lohan was born in 1986 and her career has already lived and died. You get the idea.

Atlantis final flight photo in my dining room

Also History

What surprised me even more was realizing that the loss of Columbia can now, in a sense, be considered “history”. We will mourn the anniversary of that day for the 10th time next year. Wayne Hale writes about Discovery’s return-to-flight mission in a poignant and honest way that is not possible until the immediate impact of an event has truly passed.

The point is not to make you sad by thinking about Challenger and Columbia, but to point out that the Space Shuttle Program is now the same as Mercury or Apollo or Skylab and is part of history. People will write books about it and discuss its significance. Kids will probably still have Space Shuttle toys. I will probably always have pictures of space shuttles on my wall. But it is well past time to let go. If the “space community”* wants to convince the world its ideas are worth tax dollars then they need to realize that a lot of people still think space is cool. Get them excited about the the present and stop whining about how history came too soon. Because then you are just another person surprised by the passage of time…

Not History

*National Space Society, The Planetary Society, The Moon Society, The Mars Society, SEDS, Coalition For Space Exploration…


May 1, 2012 10:43 pm

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