07/21/11 — A sad day: Last shuttle flight really a step back for America's explorer spirit

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A sad day: Last shuttle flight really a step back for America's explorer spirit

We have always been among the leaders in space exploration -- and many times, the pioneers.

So, it is with great sadness that many people who remember the words "one giant step for mankind" and the wonder of putting a man on the moon wonder just what is ahead for the space program.

The end of the shuttle missions is a milestone -- a setback if you will. And it is a shame.

The missions to space are not just about egos and getting to say that Americans were somewhere first. It is not even really about the fact that U.S. astronauts will now have to hitch rides with others to the International Space Station.

The information we as a country have gained from the experiments conducted on shuttle missions and the knowledge we have gained from our space program have resulted in many advances that are an integral part of our daily lives.

There are many who worry losing the drive to continue our space exploration -- and the decision to take a back seat to other nations -- might slow the curiosity and experimentation that leads to big discoveries.

Sure, we will save some money.

Sure, this might foster more international cooperation as we rely more on others to perfect space travel.

But it is also another example of losing our chance to be what the world values most about Americans -- determined and insatiable explorers, innovators and doers.

This is a nation that has had so many firsts because of its thirst for knowledge and its willingness to take a chance on a new discovery, a new direction, a new frontier.

As we think about what's next, Americans need to remember that being leaders and trail-blazers is who we are. It would be a shame to ever lose that -- our most precious quality.

Published in Editorials on July 21, 2011 10:50 AM