I woke up in Tampa at 3AM this morning. I had flown in yesterday.  Just over an hour later, I was on the road, and three hours after that, I was in Titusville, on the other side of the state.

Why had I come all this way? To bear witness to the end of an era.

Ever since I was a small boy I’ve believed passionately in space exploration. Like small boys everywhere I needed heroes and mine were the brave men and women who climbed on top of rockets and launched themselves into space.

Today  the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off for the last time, and with it went America’s commitments to manned space flight.

There will be no more shuttle flights after this one, thanks to the cancellation of the 30 year old space shuttle program.

There will be no more heavy rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, thanks to the cancellation of the replacement program due to budget cuts.

There will be no more manned space flight from this country, and no more American astronauts. NASA, once a symbol of progress and a center of excellence  is now a shadow of its former self.

When its mission ends, there will be 7000 highly-skilled americans out of work. They will likely find jobs quite easily but the unique experience that they possess will be lost. So when the powers that be finally change their minds, they will have to grow their brains all over again.

I am struck by the irony: after this, if we want to put in American in space, we have to rent a seat – at a cost of over 85 million dollars – on a Russian spacecraft. Weren’t these supposed to be the folks we beat in the space race? Weren’t these supposed to be the folks we outgunned, outsmarted and bankrupted?

I am not upset because the space shuttle program has been canceled. I am upset because there is no replacement for it.

The title of this post comes from 1st Samuel 4: 21: and she named the child Ichabod, saying “the glory has departed…”

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