Please pardon me while I digress from my normal blog tone for a moment. I had this on my mind and I figured, since I am trying to do some worth-while writing here these days, it might be worth exploring these thoughts and feelings a bit.

I have very few hard rules in my life. I try to be flexible and live as flexibly and open-minded as possible. The scientific method isn’t just useful for problem solving and discovery. It’s also a good way to go through life. Form theories, look for evidence to support those theories, but always be open to evidence that points a different direction, and be willing to change your theory when the evidence says you should.

That said, I do have one pretty rigid rule. I don’t normally get involved in, let alone instigate, conversations involving politics, or religion.

That said, I would like to take a moment to say that my youngest boy and I stayed up Sunday night, August 5, 2012, to watch the MSL, or Curiosity rover, land on Mars. You may be asking what the heck this has to do with politics or religion but really, the answer should be obvious. Politics and religion regularly stand in the way of such stupendous feats of reasoning and science. It’s to the point that I myself sometimes forget that there is still a place in our world for the amazing things these incredibly talented minds are doing all over the world.

Sitting there in the middle of the night, on a work night, no less, with my boy next to me, watching the nervous faces and wringing hands of that room full of brilliant people reminded me of the days in grade school when space exploration was so much on the forefront of society that they would stop school, pull all the kids into the gym, and fire up a little 20 inch television so we could all watch the space shuttle launch. It was a thing of beauty. There was a certain majesty to it, and what it represented, that I have not felt since. Until last night watching EDL operations for Curiosity with my kid.

During breaks in the pre-landing transmission we talked about what the landing meant, what the rover was for, and why it was important. I was very glad to hear him speak about what it meant to him and what he hopes it will find. It was very refreshing. I know that my boys are mostly aware of these things, we talk very openly at our home and encourage questioning and discovery, but I also know that we are in the minority. I’ve met other people’s kids. And their parents.

I’m not saying my kids are better than anyone else’s, mind you. Nor am I saying that there are a ton of bad parents out there. I’m simply saying that, in the not so distant past (a few months now), NASA launched and recovered the space shuttle for the last time. Ever. A decades-long space program, with multiple vehicles that were each designed to run hundreds of missions came to an end with a whimper. My children would not have even known it had happened, if we hadn’t talked about it. Both the launch, and the landing were mentioned en passant on the evening news, and no mention of it was made at school, let alone a mass assembly or even streaming of the events to individual classrooms, as technology would now allow.

I know that the cancelling of the shuttle program was sort of necessary, although I take issue with the timing and methodology. I also feel that moving a lot of those activities off onto private corporations is probably a good move, in the long run. However, I feel that stopping our own launch operations while we still have need to be in space regularly was short-sighted to the point of complete lunacy. Our government (I am a US citizen, if any reading this did not know), continues to slash funding and eliminate support for space exploration, just as they do with the funding and support for the teachers and mentors that are there to inspire and teach our children, so that they can grow up to be the next generation of scientists, engineers, and adventurers that drive us, as a whole people, one world, off of this rock and out into the unknown.

Don’t get me wrong here either. I’m not itching to get off-planet (although I think it would be quite the adventure and would certainly never turn down the opportunity to do so safely) but I feel that we as a people MUST get off-planet. We need to get free of this world and spread ourselves out; establish colonies and advance ourselves as a whole. We are in a cosmic shooting gallery, ladies and gentlemen. And the old adage of not putting all your eggs in one basket was never more true than it is with our survival as a species. Which isn’t even to mention all of the amazing discoveries and advances that are waiting for us out there!

Well, this has gone a bit long, and I guess I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll stop. But I felt a need to get this out there. Because I’m not sure it’s being said in enough places or ways. Please, encourage your children, and their children. Speak to your neighbors and family. Bring back the spirit of adventure that put space travel on the front page again and again. Teach kids to question. Then teach them how to find the answers. We, as a nation, have fallen down. But to borrow a line from a recent film, “why do we fall down? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up!”

Help us. Help yourself. Write your representatives in Washington D.C. and tell them to put money back into the schools. Back into science. Back into the future of the human race. I can’t do it alone. Only together are we strong enough.

And if you see anyone involved in the MSL program, you shake their hand and say thank you to them. What happened last night was nothing short of spectacular.