Like many other ridiculously regular young boys, I wanted to be a pilot if you asked me 30 years ago. The fascination, which continues to this day, was less about airplanes and more about flying. In such embryonic realm of childhood, Atlantis was merely perceived as a super airplane that could fly higher. Atlantis felt like a toy which could take me to the flirtatiously blinking stars, and help hearing the voice of the moon.
Today, the endless-looking future unwelcomingly represents itself like a harsh mistress. We all watched the last launch of Atlantis last week, and underneath all the spectacles there was an inane anguish because the toy was to be bagged.
Retirement of Atlantis provokes opinion and conspiracy. Setting aside all the speculations and personal notes, there are two schools of thoughts on the subject. Obviously the first one coveys deep negativity and asserts that we’re giving up on the space program. In addition, the absolute fact that many states such as Texas and Florida will take a hit on the job loss adds fuel to the fire of conspiracy in that space science has hit a wall .
Except, retirement of Atlantis after 30 years of loyal service isn’t unreasonable. For instance, Atlantis was initially designed and planned to cost $10 million per flight. The actual current allocated fund surpasses $1.2 billion per flight which can’t sustain. Or, the initial systems of the shuttle are now 30 years old, and are not kept up-to-date with the fully computerized systems of the recent years. That’d make the shuttle like a butterfly flying through bullets in space. Luckily, the fund will now spread to new and existing NASA initiatives such as robotic missions, planetary science, climate science, exploration technology, and space technology. The last two, which are highly critical in enabling NASA to explore farther out in the space, are getting 220% and 113% increase in funding respectively.
No matter what, the retirement of Atlantis is one more indication of the fact that my childhood is utterly over. I can wishfully hope that the two impossibly different veins of awareness and childish-unconscious can now make the best of friends, at some gray point in the infinite space.