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One Less Piece of American Greatness

2012 April 17
by robertnew

NASA file image of Discovery VAB final fly by

Today I watched the last flight of the shuttle Discovery. It was one of those surreal moments you watch on television, like the last episode of M*A*S*H. Something that was a distant part of your life that will be no more.

I lived in Florida during the highest and lowest parts of the shuttle program. And every time I watched a launch it was as thrilling as the very first time. I remember staring in silence at the disfigured plume of smoke from the Challenger disaster and saw the devastating effects on the community. I saw the resurgence of the shuttle program when it started up again and we proved once again we would overcome adversity.

American pride soared with each shuttle launch. This modern-day marvel literally shook the ground you stood upon as it lit up the horizon and roared into space. People stood on the side of the road and stared at long trail of smoke long after the shuttle disappeared.

America seems to have lost that pride and awe of amazement. I remember driving down to the river along US Highway One and the riverfront across from the space center. People lined the shore as far as you could see, T-shirt vendors sold trinkets and keepsakes of each launch. Kids perched on their dad’s shoulders above the crowd, wide-eyed and giddy, pointing at the launch pad and VAB in the distance.

America is a country born out of people taking a risk and setting out on paths of unknown destiny. That is what America needs now, not finger pointing or buck passing or inflammatory rhetoric. I don’t care about inherited problems; I care about facing the problems and manning up to fix them. We need the power and roar of American exceptionalism leaving a lump in our throat, a sense of awe and wonderment causing us to gaze into the heavens, and the leadership of a Ronald Reagan as he stared into the camera, choked back emotion, and reminded us “The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

 Today I watched on TV as Discovery was carried off into the horizon to her much deserved resting place, and said farewell to yet one more piece of American greatness.

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