Yesterday as I was preparing for the 2nd annual DePaul Democrats vs. DePaul Republicans Debate (The Sheffield Scuffle), I had a headline beep across my phone that makes any space-maniac such as myself gulp with fear.
“Breaking News: NASA Rocket Explodes Seconds After Liftoff”.
The Orbital Sciences Antares rocket that exploded several seconds after liftoff was en route to the International Space Station, arguably the greatest success story in multi-national space exploration (I’ll stop before I have to compare its success with the Voyager mission). Fortunately for us, the rocket was unmanned. The cargo on-board will certainly be missed by the astronauts on the space station (they’ll be missing the fruit that was on board), and certainly the research and money lost on this specific mission is a short blow to the overall global mission of space exploration in the 21st century.
Once again, supporters of human exploration of space in the United States are confronted with a simultaneously saddening and angering realization; people only pay attention to our space program when it fails miserably. Whenever a rocket goes up in a fiery plume of smoke and liquid fuel, the media races to the site of the accident that provides its nightly program with prime material.
In the aftermath of such a catastrophe, there are scores of critics who emerge from their den and criticize the ‘waste’ of time and resources that NASA missions require. They’ll be speaking today, the day after, in hopes of recalibrating the pin of public opinion slightly towards the side of conservatism and a hermitry relationship between our planet and the Universe.
There are always naysayers and those that exercise only caution and warnings of dread whenever people attempt to branch out of the status quo in the search for truth. People will always downplay the advances of Science and the Space Program after an accident exposes the undeniably human underpinnings of such a project, but the threat of failure can never deter progress in its truest form.
Certainly we may fail on multiple occasions throughout our search for a greater understanding of the cosmos, and it is with defeat that we learn our greatest lessons. Certainly NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. will evaluate the disaster and learn things that will help make sure that such a disaster will never happen in the future, especially with the possibility of humans being transported commercially to the International Space Station and beyond.
It is undeniably true that all great things worth doing in life require a certain chance of failure, with great risk comes great reward. Human exploration may never lose its slight probability of failure, and never should the smidgeons of doubt and fatalist prophecies halt humankind on their march towards greater understanding of the Universe that created us. I look forward to the strong continuation of NASA and American exploration of space as a whole.