When did it stop being such a big deal to go into space?

By By Christina Coloroso

By Christina Coloroso

Last week, NASA made several attempts to launch the space shuttle Discovery into space on a mission designed to test improvements to shuttle safety mechanisms and help re-supply the international space station in orbit.

I say several attempts because inclement weather and concerns over the reliability of the new safety designs delayed the launch multiple times.

Yet-even with numerous near-launchings of a space shuttle-mainstream news outlets barely devoted any time or space to discussing the NASA mission. Granted, no spectacular Mars landings were scheduled on the ship’s flight plan, but it is sad to think that we have come so far from being awe-inspired by the initial moon walk in the 1960s to simply stop caring about anything NASA does these days.

NASA does not receive nearly as much credit as it deserves-not from the American media, the American government and especially not from the American people.

In fact, it seems as though the only time we hear about NASA is when it screws up, which is unfortunate, considering the immense complexities and difficulties of something like the launch of a space shuttle. Even a quarter-inch-thick piece of foam coming loose can harm the body of the shuttle, not to mention the unpredictability of weather and the precise timing necessary to launch the craft into proper orbit.

The point is that the public only ever hears or cares about the launches that go wrong or are delayed because too many birds were on the tarmac or because the weather forecast called for slight rain. And rather than cutting NASA some slack and considering the high stakes involved, people assume it’s because it doesn’t have its act together.

The other problem is that the “outer space” of yore has become mundane in modern times. We’ve been to the moon already: big deal. Why do we need to go back? There’s nothing important on Mars-and even if there were, we don’t want to invest the money to get there. And the international space station sounds like a piece of crap, literally falling apart at the seams.

Kids don’t dream of becoming astronauts anymore. Instead, they dream of a more glamorous lifestyle, like being a NASCAR driver-and our future will suffer for it.

Much of what NASA taught us when we landed on the moon is that we are not the end-all, be-all out there, that there is a whole universe we don’t see and understand. It taught us humility; it taught us we are small in comparison to the magnitude of our universe, and it taught us that we must seek to find our place within nature, rather than foolishly trying to bend it around us. But we don’t want to hear those lessons anymore. We’ve got cell phones, nuclear weapons and the Internet, and all they do is make our world seem small and conquerable.

Even if you hate NASA and you hate the billions of dollars allocated to it in funding, you are benefiting from its research and its programming. Velcro is the classic example everyone has heard of-a product of NASA engineering. NASA also helped develop water purification systems, the CAT scan and home insulation, and now it is making modifications to technology that can help find and fight diabetes.

It’s time we give credit where credit is due; and for the invaluable contributions to science, discovery and the human imagination, it’s time we give a lot more credit to NASA.