The next lift-off of the space shuttle Atlantis will mark the last hoorah of America’s shuttle program. It’s the end of the short-lived legacy John Kennedy started when he swore to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Kennedy’s last gasp, as it were.
Once the shuttle is grounded, so too is America’s manned space program. For the foreseeable future, our astronauts and scientists will be thumbing lifts with the Russians, and whoever else might be headed up, up and away.
Meanwhile, back on the planet, there is great rending and gnashing over American students’ math and science scores in relation the rest of the world. Connection? Maybe.
I mean, what’s the point of studying the hard subjects if there’s no goal? America is apparently done with space; we’ve been there, done that. Why should any kid see a connection between physics and the future? The youth of today looks up at the stars with a greasy “meh,” and returns to its video games and social networking sites. That’s what the future is, right? It’s the click of the mouse, the “like,” not the thrust of lift-off, not exploration.
But, hey, it’s OK. The 21st century can go down in history as the “Comfy Age.” It’s the century we figured out how to see the world, hang out with our friends and test ourselves, while sitting on our ever-expanding asses. We don’t even need to get ourselves to a desk anymore; we can do most of it from our phones.
Now, if America wanted to do something else. It probably could. Like Kennedy, our leaders could choose a bold path and dedicate our resources, minds and hearts to traveling it. We could adopt a common goal, and boldly go, go, go. Education systems could be revamped; high-tech and manufacturing jobs could be created; we could struggle and strive; heroes and role models might inspire us; we might even have a purpose we could all be proud of again.
But, no. It’s the Comfy Age. Institutions like 7-11 are showing us the way with innovations like the new Slurpee cup. It has two chambers, allowing us to sip two flavors of high-fructose corn syrup. There’s even a valve on the two straws built into the cup. It’s amazing!
So sit back, relax and sip. Get comfortable. It’s the future: don’t make it, go with it.