A week ago yesterday, JAWRA World Editorial Headquarters, high above downtown Reston, was a viewpoint for watching the last transport flight of the space shuttle, Discovery. I joined some friends (w/champagne!) on a rooftop down the street to witness the fly-overs and landing Dulles Airport.
With the retirement of the shuttles, Americans going to the International Space Station have to hitch a ride with the Russians. Its final fly-over passed near the grave of John F. Kennedy. What would JFK have thought?
What’s to become of American science? The race to the moon, and the shuttle program which followed it, cost a king’s ransom. But we were willing to pay the price, any price, to establish U.S. primacy in science and engineering. And, not only in space: our Clean Water Act of 1972 set the world standard for cleaning up polluted streams, with the Federal Government paying up to 75 percent of construction costs. Many of my generation got our educations and our first jobs thanks to such grand endeavors. And now? Put simply, there is no way our current politicians are going to initiate any program more than a shadow of our past glory.
But we will persevere, working on limited budgets and learning to draw upon the talent of our colleagues around the world. The science is too important to neglect, to let lie stagnant. Someday, we will need it again, to deal with a changing world and to clean up our mistakes.