Monday, August 6, 2012

Afternoon delight

As I enjoyed the sacrament of espresso this afternoon, I watched last night's CNN coverage of the Mars landing. I may not have stayed up late to watch it, but at least I set the DVR.

It was great. Being the perfect audience, I was nervous about the landing. Didn't matter that I knew things would work out; I just get caught up in the drama. It was so exciting. Everything not only went perfectly, but did so immediately. It was like boom, boom, boom. They got confirmation at every stage of the descent and within a very short time, had photos from the surface to prove it. It was stupendous.

The best part was seeing the faces of the NASA scientists as they learned the mission was a success. They seem to be a very huggable bunch. I always think this when I watch landings. (They also seem like hippies; just saying.) Seeing them cheer as the first results came in was inspiring. This is what real science looks like. I'm so glad I recorded it.

But afterward, I couldn't help but wonder. Is this incredible Mars landing the swan song of a formerly smart, technological society? Will this be like our moon landing, an event never to be repeated? The future of space exploration seems dim, given our financial reality and the dimwitted people we elect as legislators.

Sad but true: I can't imagine our current know-nothing society producing a similar or greater technological feat in the future. We aren't even educating our children anymore and we've placed extreme financial barriers -- like a protective moat -- around higher education. For most young people, it's no longer possible to go to college. This is not only insanity, it is national suicide. Where is the next generation of well-educated Americans supposed to come from?

But if the Mars landing was our swan song, at least it was lovely.