Monday, June 21, 2010

The Sun is setting on our Brightest and Best



I read the announcement in a news alert and my heart sank. Late last week, NASA announced that up to 2,000 contractor jobs were going to be cut due to the cancellation of the Constellation program. Not all of the jobs will be here in Huntsville, but many will be.

I don’t even think this made the national news, and it wasn’t big headlines in our local news for long. More sensational things happened, such a prisoner who is being held on murder charges tried to commit suicide and lots of politically charged stories.

But for those of us who are closely tied to the Space Program, that announcement was like a mournful bell tolling. The current administration has arbitrarily cut off funding for the Constellation program, which was to replace the aging Space Shuttle. When the last shuttle mission flies within the year…it will be the end of the American Manned Space Flight program. Our astronauts will be hitching rides from the Russians to get the the International Space Station (oh, and the price will be very high for their taxi services!) This is unbelievable to me. As long as I can remember, Americans have been the front runner in Manned Space Flight.

My heroes have included John Glenn and Neil Armstrong and Jan Davis.These were men and women who did daring things, risking their lives…but risking while trusting the technology developed, engineered and built by NASA and NASA contractors. We have corporately mourned disasters that took the lives of our brightest and best. We have reaped the benefit of better living and technology because of NASA research and technology developed for the Space Program.

Who will my grandchildren look up to and call ‘hero’ the way I looked up to the Astronauts? Will it be some entertainer? A politician? A sports figure? Who will accomplish something as amazing as Ares IX, which went from concept to flight in only 3 years time?

Every morning as I come to work, I top a hill and can see the city of Huntsville spread out before me. The most stunning landmark in the distance is a Saturn V rocket that stands proudly at the western edge of the city. I have seen it like a sentinel standing guard over our fair city for the 23 years I have lived here. Last week, I stood at the top of that hill and watched the sun setting behind the rocket.

It was a poignant moment for me. I thought of my friends who will be affected by the layoffs that are surely coming. I thought about my husband, the amazing Rocket Man, who works in the industry and is scrambling and sacrificing to keep good people employed. I thought about the church where I work and know that we will feel the crunch as giving will go down when people lose their jobs. I thought of other jobs that will be lost as our economy feels the squeeze as the aerospace industry in Huntsville shrinks.

Seeing the sun set behind the rocket seemed quite symbolic to me. I hope that memory never replaces the memory I have of being at the launch of Ares IX and the pride I felt at the great achievement I saw. I pray it is not our last such achievement.



1 comment:

Barb~Bella Vista said...

Hi Mollianne, You have two blogs with the name you listed. Which one do you want listed for the Rooster Party?

Just drop me a comment. Many thanks.
Barb