Beyond The Lights In the SkyMarch 2003
To be fair, a good many adults are absorbed in our own little worlds, asking not what we can do for our country, but what our country can do for us. We plow through our lot in life, increasing assets and decreasing debt, all the while trying to enjoy whatever creature comforts the fruits of our labor can provide. This is not brow-beating; it's a fundamental truth. It is life, I suppose.
But it is somewhere between point A and point B that a good many of us tuck away our youthful idealism and noble dreams. For most of us, these dreams are not practical or realistic.
There is much to admire about people who have evolved to the degree of studying the cosmos up close and personal. It is an altruistic endeavor, a thirst-quenching desire to learn and discover for the greater good of mankind. Prescient thinking cannot be found on a quarterly report; forward-looking statements come in the form of what possibilities lie ahead in the vast, unknown wilderness above our tiny planet. There are no projections, only discovery. Try selling that to the board of directors.
Astronauts certainly aren't status seekers, at least in the pop culture sense. They're more likely to be found on a PBS show discussing space's effect on photosynthesis rather than showcasing their new Humvee on MTV's "Cribs."
For that matter, an astronaut's salary would hardly justify such a decadent possession. The pay scale for this occupation is between $56,257 and $86,974, according to NASA's Website. Considering the vast, comprehensive educational requirements of candidates, the private sector is far, far more attractive in terms of compensation. But it's a safe guess to say that money is not a motivating factor for these folks.
Give President Bush credit in his unwavering support for the continuation of the space program. Like early U.S. settlers who died en route to new possibilities out West, our road to unknown celestial frontiers must not be detoured. When the wheel comes off the wagon, it must be replaced for the long journey ahead.
Seven people perished February 1—not in pursuit of financial benefit, territorial gain or the advancement of a religious, political or ethnic agenda. To these seven, and the next group that climbs into a space shuttle, we owe a debt of gratitude and more than a passing glance toward the heavens.