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Lileks and [livejournal.com profile] chebutykin are both mourning the end of the NASA Shuttle program in their different ways, communicating that they both feel that the door to America's future in space has been closed. Texas Governor Rick Perry is also less than pleased.

Me, not so much. To be honest, I've been annoyed with NASA since the 1970s when they shut down the Apollo program and let Skylab fall out of orbit, and I've been wishing that they, like many agencies of the Federal government, would just die and get out of the way. When you look back at the roots of the space program in science fiction, there wasn't much in the way of great space epics that involved massive government bureaucracies re-enacting the Manhattan Project IN SPACE! For that matter, Heinlein's juvenile novel Rocket Ship Galileo presented America's first trip to the moon as, basically, a backyard science project. So historically, we should look at NASA as an aberration, a sixty-year detour from the road we should have been on all along. That road, the private-sector exploration and exploitation of space, is one we're belatedly going down, mainly because nobody can rely on NASA to get payloads into orbit any more, and there are a lot of reasons we don't want to put all our eggs in Russian and Chinese baskets.

I sometimes wonder if the massive presence of fantasy fans hasn't derailed fandom from what used to be fairly unanimous support for organizations like the L5 Society (now merged with the National Space Society); certainly, there's less visible presence of such groups at conventions these days, or so it seems. Or maybe it's just that the NSS doesn't do the kind of outreach to fandom that it used to. In any case, space is the logical extension of America's long and successful history in aviation, which in turn is one of the few remaining successful export industries left in this country. It's still raining soup out there, and if we can get NASA out of the business of buying, selling, manufacturing, and writing regulations about bowls, we might could get some more cool things done in space, for the benefit of our country and the world.

UPDATE: I guess I'm not alone in thinking that fandom has failed the space program. (Jerry Pournelle)

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