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SENTRY JOURNAL » challenger, john f. kennedy, june scobee rodgers, nasa, Obama, Ronald Reagan » The Future and the Fainthearted

The Future and the Fainthearted

by RightHandMan

“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… We‘ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights, more shuttle crews, and yes more volunteers, more civilians, and more teachers in space.”

These are the words Ronald Reagan spoke to the nation after the Challenger exploded in 1986. More accurately Reagan specified this part of his speech to the “schoolchildren” who had seen the explosion at school. Reagan was speaking to my generation, currently the largest voting block in the nation.

Perhaps we have forgotten those words, the fundamental belief that our best days are ahead of us, and that we can do anything we put our minds to. Since when does America look at minor setbacks as defeat? When did we become a nation of “fainthearted”? NASA is no longer sending people to space, they have a bolder mission of patronizing Arabs by assuring them of their contributions to science. We are no longer have the brave pioneers that once dreamed of walking on distant planets and satellites working at NASA, instead we fund the fearless who study the planet’s reaction to greenhouse gasses.

When the Challenger blew up we looked on in disbelief, shock, and fear. Those who were the best America had to offer were taken from us in a blink. How does a country react to this? How do family members accept such tragedy?

Lorna Onizuka, the widow of astronaut Ellison Onizuka said, “I could spend the rest of my life being angry at something I couldn’t change. My husband believed that this mission was worth his life.”

June Scobee Rodgers, the founding chairman of the Challenger Center said in behalf of Christa McAuliffe‘s family, “I know the mission continues when I visit the (Learning) Centers and see the children in action. I can see it in their faces. I can hear it in their voices. I can feel it when I hear comments from their teachers about the increased self-esteem of underprivileged children. When teachers participate in our workshops, when they get excited about lessons they’ll be taking back to their classrooms, Christa’s legacy continues.”

Perhaps the natural reaction of humans after the explosion would have been to halt all missions indefinitely, rethink our purpose in space, and keep civilians out of the exploration equation. We could have cowered and hid our heads in the sand, but we did not. Instead our leader spoke that night to in place of the normal State of the Union address and assured us that while we will mourn and grieve “nothing ends here” – we will also not let the lives of these men and women go in vain. For many years we did not.

What concerns me is not just that we’ve basically abandoned the space program as we’ve known it, but that we’ve abandoned the spirit of progression as was verbalized in 1962 by John F. Kennedy.

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Today our leader has a completely different approach to challenges. While our space program dwindles, we cower in the face of adversity. When the BP oil rig exploded causing what has become the worst oil spill in American history, our President reacted by calling a stoppage to all offshore drilling. This is disturbing not only because of the economic fallout from such a decision for thousands in the already suffering area, but also because it strikes against the basic philosophy, “Give us a challenge and we’ll meet it with joy”.

My generation is largely responsible for electing the current administration. Have we forgotten the lesson that President Reagan spoke to us when we were children? To whom does the future belong and where will it take us?


Filed under: challenger, john f. kennedy, june scobee rodgers, nasa, Obama, Ronald Reagan

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  • Trestin July 10, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    The decline of our space program is distressing. I wonder if this is what it felt like to be English when their empire was declining?

  • John Carey July 10, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    Great post Right! We are indeed responsible for the current administration but not because we have forgotten about the American can-do spirit, but because of apathy and ignorance.

  • Kristin July 10, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    And now NASA's job is Muslim Outreach….

    When did we forget what it means to be an American?

  • Right Hand Man July 10, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    Thanks for the comments.

    Perhaps you're right Trestin, but I think the American spirit is less fragile than the English one was. We still have the longing for freedom and that, when pressed, can give way to all sorts of things. I think America still has the capacity to overcome its current problems and direction. "In this present crisis government isn't the solution to the problem, government is the problem." That will ring true more now and in the near future than ever in these United States.

    John, perhaps you're right that apathy and ignorance are the responsible culprits, but I still feel that there is a lack of "can do" spirit among the newer generations. Kids just don't want to be astronauts anymore. It obviously goes beyond the space program, but the space program illustrates in a smaller scale what I think is happening to the American spirit…which is very congruent with an anti-capitalist/socialist movement – a lack of progress and ingenuity.


    My post wrapped up in a question.

  • Gorges Smythe July 10, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    "…the space program illustrates in a smaller scale what I think is happening to the American spirit…"

    I was never big on the space program, but much good has come of it, and I think your words are right on the money.

  • Right Hand Man July 10, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Thanks Gorges. I was never very fascinated with space myself, but I've always respected the space program and those that are in it. To think that nobody has been on the moon since we decided to go – you know, prior to the microchip. Would we dare accept such a challenge today? Imagine what the expectations must have been then for those of us that are alive today.