We Are In a New Era Now, You and I

It is 3:38 PM Eastern Standard Time. It is a Wednesday. I am wearing a blue denim dress with black sandals, silver boot-and-hat earrings, and a silvertone watch. I had turkey and bacon on wheat toast for lunch. My only sister is in the sixth month of pregnancy with her first child. I live in a snug little studio apartment and make $12.75 an hour doing technical and marketing writing for an engineering firm. The temperature is 68 degrees. Tomorrow is my twenty-seventh birthday.

I was present for history today as I undertook the highly important activity of organizing contracts, straining to hear the President's voice through tinny computer speakers. We will finish the International Space Station, dedicating what remains of our tough little shuttle fleet to completing its construction and bending the science we perform there to withstanding the rigors of long-duration space flight.

And in 2010, those lovely ladies, these three orbiters, having performed their tasks so long and so well, will be retired. The "in between", this pause on interplanetary travel that has occupied my entire lifespan, has ended. Only a few months ago I wouldn't have even entertained the idea.

The Moon will serve as a launching pad for Mars. Its weak gravitational pull and helium-rich environment will make for an excellent pit stop. We're not just going because it is there. We're going because it is time, and because we owe it to ourselves, our babies, and those who blazed the trail some forty years ago.

The short-sightedness of the Apollo cutoff will at last be righted. If the Moon program's funding had not been cut, the mighty Saturn V rockets not silenced, I very firmly believe we would be on Mars right now, reaping unimaginable tangental benefits. We're going to rectify that. Nearly every single Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo astronaut, when writing of the current condition of the space program, expresses nothing but frustration over the "beached whale" state of our Moon hardware. But all those years, and all that work, will not have resulted in merely a "ta-dah!" moment.

The President recognized the presence of Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon (or, as Cernan prefers to put it, "the most recent man on the Moon") in his speech. He talked about Columbia, of lives lost and progress gained. These men understand.

We are going back.

Also, do not mock my earrings. They too are awesome.

January 14, 2004

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