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Monday, April 23, 2012

Red Glare

It is one of the really neat things about working in a television news room.  We see things you don't.

Last Tuesday morning, I was simultaneously working on a tax deadline day story and doing some pre-election homework.  Off to my left was a screen we use to monitor news feeds from CNN and ABC.  Insider alert:  a news feed is material a network gives to its affiliates for use in local broadcasts.

Last Tuesday, we had the feed from NASA punched in.  NASA was getting the Discovery ready for its final flight-- a trip to a museum in the Washington, DC area.

By the way, I know its Atlantis in today's blog photo.  I thought it was too cool to pass up.

As I watched Discovery loaded on to the back of a 747, I thought back to the first manned shuttle flight, way back in April of 1981.  I remembered it being so different from the Apollo launches of my youth.  Those Saturn V rockets that took us to the moon were tall and slender.  The shuttles were shorter, but with those big solid rocket boosters, and that huge tank in the middle.

And, then there were the early landings at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The shuttle was essentially a huge and heavy glider at landing time.  There was plenty of room for error, and plenty of room in general, in the California desert.  I still can see Frank Reynolds anchoring the landing coverage on ABC, doing his best with wind blowing sand and dust all over the place.  By the time the shuttle program got off the ground, Cronkite had retired and watching CBS wasn't the same.

As I watched the feed last Tuesday morning, I commented to a co-worker, who is around my age, that the late 60's and early 70's was a great time to grow up because the space program was so much fun.  Moon launches were events.  Every network covered the launches, lunar landings, and splash downs here at home.  Astronauts were heroes, and we marveled at the technology of the time.

It was inspiring.

The shuttle flew off into the morning sky on Tuesday, and I was left to wonder what inspires people now.  The new iPad?  Please.  Half calorie cola?  I don't think so.

Space in infinite, but money is finite.  We don't have the resources to go back to the moon.  Manned exploration of the planets is beyond our grasp.

We should be very happy with what we've accomplished.  It was an awesome ride.