Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 105- Mars or bust!

Little more than 40 years ago, astronauts descended the nine-rung ladder of the lunar module called Eagle, and allowed their feet to touch the dusty surface of the Earth’s only Moon. This was the culmination of a daring and perilous gambit -- of an endeavor that pushed the boundaries of our knowledge, of our technological prowess, of our very capacity as human beings to solve problems. It wasn’t just the greatest achievement in NASA’s history -- it was one of the greatest achievements in human history.

And the question for us now is whether that was the beginning of something or the end of something. I choose to believe it was only the beginning.

-President Obama, 4/15/2010

Dear Mr. President,

Your speech today about America's future in space was thrilling. I was happy, first of all, to learn of your ambitious and thoughtful plan, and also to see you combating the recent claims by some on the right that your decision to end the Constellation program would curtail America's leadership in space exploration. I know that NASA is a nonpartisan organization and that your support for missions to Mars have less to do with what's best for the Democratic party than with what's best for the American people, and I respect you for that. That this was also an opportunity to combat disingenuous statements made by your political opponents is really just an added bonus for those of us keeping score at home.

I've been smiling uncontrollably since I watched the speech on youtube. I'll never be an astronaut, and I think my chance at being a NASA scientist was lost when I chose to pursue a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, but the 5th grade girl that asked for a telescope for Christmas is so very happy that I might live to see humans set foot on another planet. With little more than words, you've inspired us to believe in what we can do together. To imagine witnessing the kind of history made from triumph and not tragedy.

But this speech wasn't the only thing you did today that dared me, and the rest of America to dream of an even brighter future. Today you issued a memorandum aimed at allowing visitation rights for same-sex partners in hospitals. This was an incredibly sensible and compassionate thing to do. I'd like to think that, if I can imagine my young nephew growing up to walk on Mars, I can also imagine him growing up to enjoy the same rights and privileges as any American, no matter who he loves. Our progress in technology and innovation must be matched by social progress; as we become smarter and more capable, we must also become more just. I doubt very much that the two acts were linked in your mind, but I hope you know they were linked in mine. Both were very small steps toward a distant future, one that will require the best of all of us to achieve. I will go to bed tonight dreaming of the days ahead, a red light blinking softly in the night sky and a society that does not discriminate against its citizens for the people that they love.

Respectfully yours,


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