I was in fourth grade. We had this computer game where we flew a little space ship around the solar system and answered trivia questions like, "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" The second grade teacher came our classroom and said, "The space shuttle blew up!" I thought she meant that the little space ship in the computer game, which looked like a little space shuttle, had blown up in the game and now we were going to be able to access some super trivia level and wouldn't that be cool...
It took me a few minutes to understand what she meant. I got it when they wheeled the TV cart into our classroom and we all watched Dan Rather explain to us, with the help of a toy space shuttle model, what had happened to the teacher we had been learning about and cheering on for the last several months.
That was twenty-two years ago today. People still want to go into space, but I'm more of the sort that wants to fund things like Hubble that allow us to see farther and clearer into the unknown. Do we really need to go to the moon again, or step foot on Mars? For what purpose? So we'll have a place to go when when this planet is beyond repair? I suppose if people want to go whizzing through the stratosphere on their own private dime, that's their business. For now, though, I don' think that manned space exploration should be the crowning achievement of NASA. Let's just try to digest what Hubble sends back for a while:
Interacting Spiral Galaxies
Those are some crazy cool images, if you ask me. Lots more here, if you are so inclined.