Mom, I’m no longer a virgin

Over the past few days I’ve had to come to terms with a huge realization in my life.  It can be equated to

  • No longer a virgin
  • Crushed childhood dreams
  • Oh $hit! What do I do with my life now?

What am I saying all of this silly stuff about?  Why write such a title for this post?  It all goes back to Wayne Hale’s post the other day.  He is right you know.  I have been tossing words around my head for weeks now.  But, it wasn’t until he posted his thoughts that I admitted something to myself.  Something huge.

I am no longer a naive dreamer.

And this saddens me deeply.

Last week, Camilla SDO wrote this nice post about me.  As a baby, my dad would hold me in his arms while watching Star Trek.  I didn’t know this until just a few years ago but it explains so much.  I’ve always felt that space exploration was my calling, that it is something that I was meant to do.  It’s not just a passion that is excited through the unknown, engineering challenges, and scientific discoveries, but by the dream that we were really going to go out there.  To explore.  To stay.

On February 1st, 2010 and the weeks that followed I joked that I felt NASA had broken up with me.  It was partly true.

Last week when the House accepted the Senate’s version of the FY2011 Budget (Authorization) for NASA I knew it was game over.   Why?  I refer you back to Wayne Hale’s post.  It’s happened time and time again.  Plus, don’t forget the Administration wants a 5% budget cut across non-essential agencies of which NASA is included.  So the $19B that NASA may get is going to be 5% less yet they will be tasked with a tall order.

NASA is NASA and the men and women who make up that agency (civil servants and contractors) do their best to meet every tall order given to them by changing Congress’ and Administrations.

So in reality, it wasn’t NASA that broke up with me.  It was my government.  Or was it?  Hasn’t this always been my government?  Hasn’t this always been a reality?  Space Exploration is not done to explore, push our boundaries, to move mankind off or planet.  It’s politics.  Has been since Sputnik launched  in 1957 shocking and scaring a planet.  It’s war.  Has been since WWII and the V2 rocket.


I’ve always been the dreamer.  The one to say anything is possible if only you put your mind to it.  I was told I wasn’t going to college unless I found a way to pay for it.  I sat in front of my Congressman’s committee my senior year in high school and told him why he should send me to a Military Academy – in essence because of my passion for space exploration.  I got the nomination.  He then continued to vote against the continuation of the space station.  I felt like a double standard and left the Prep School at one of the Academies for many reasons.  One of them being I couldn’t be there because someone didn’t believe in what I believed in for our country.  Space exploration.

Where are we today?  We have a Congress that’s primary purpose is to save jobs in their districts.  An Administration that confuses me.  And we are not on a path to truly explore space.

I no longer think we can get *there* in my lifetime.  And for this I am sad.

So I mourn.  And then I write this post.

So, now that I am an adult it’s time to take matters into my own hands.  I wonder, is this what New Space did all those years ago?  Am I finally awakening?  Can it be done without the government holding our dreams back?


4 responses to “Mom, I’m no longer a virgin

  1. Even SciFi stopped dreaming to some extent. Look at the new Battlestar Galactica – apart from ‘jumping’ and robots with enough AI to turn against themselves (reminds you of some existing race like us humans?) everything there is old and not really advanced.

    I am a software engineer by trade, and I can tell you I went through a process as well of realizing I was fighting windmills, and that what logic dictates is but one small part of the big picture.

    At the end of the day, the cliche of being able to change what we can, accept what we can’t and distinguish between the two is a part of getting older and wiser, at the price of losing our idealism that we cling to since childhood until it is too far detached from reality.

  2. I know how you feel. With me, though, it happened a little more slowly with my realization happening in my early to mid 20s, more than 25 years ago. In 1972 when I was 12 and watching the last men walk on the Moon (I hate saying that and can’t wait to have to modify my words), I thought I was going to be too young to be the first person on Mars – it was going to happen in 1986 when I was only 26 afterall. The next decade found me going full steam into science – in particular Astronomy with my eyes focused on the Universe and understanding it and exploring it. When I met my then future wife, we dreamed of moving to the Moon and raising our family there or on Mars (we were both members of SEDS). It still seemed possible as the Space Shuttle was just making its first few flights at that time and everything still seemed possible. But it already wasn’t possible. Our government had chopped my dreams off at the knees before I’d even set sail on my journey into science! The shuttle wasn’t the machine it was sold to be and I realized that my grandiose dreams for the future were pretty much done by the time Challenger exploded and put a big exclamation point on my realization that we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And the next 25 years has done nothing to suggest that we’re going to do anything spectacular again in my lifetime as plan after lofty plan materializes, floats gently into the government aether and then explodes in the slash of a presidential or congressional budget knife. I’m afraid I might just have seen the last human footprints on another world in my lifetime and it saddens me deeply to see generations after mine be denied the same excitement and inspiration.

    When can you run for president so we can get off this rock?


  3. Allow me to exchange deep sighs with you. Much of what you have posted is going through the minds and hearts of many if not all space exploration supporters. We are suffering from being way out on the leading edge of human evolution and suddenly finding we are being shunned by our roots. This is devastating. This is also not new. Consider that we are being tested. Can we endure in spite of where things are now, and most importantly, can we keep on dreaming even in the stark, bright lights of blinding dumbness? The history of humankind is filled with many times when progress was grabbed and chained into submission. Fortunately for all of us, dreaming could not be stopped, and dreams are sometimes subtle, but always powerful.

    So, dream on, forcefully. Use those dreams to leap at every event or opportunity that loosens those chains. Yes, it may take a little longer than we hoped, but keep in mind there is a legion of dreamers. We just need to keep together and committed. First step – think carefully this election period and vote. Above all, vote for your dreams.

  4. Brian Williams (@DeepSpacer)

    I felt this way too, but not when they accepted the Senate’s budget for FY2011. I felt this way when the president announced his “Bold new direction” with the initial rollout of his budget.
    It wasn’t the cancellation of Constellation that affected me, it was when the president uttered the same line that I had heard so many times before when someone talked about going back to the moon “We’ve been there”.

    The philosphy that the only things worthy of doing in space exploration have to be big over-the-top firsts, to me, just misses the point. If we allow that “been there done that attitude” to germinate in NASA then all our space program will ever be is a feather in the cap of whoever is in charge. You’ll never have colonies off planet, you won’t be building towards the future of mankind. With that phrase you are consigning mankind to expensive ventures that may wow at first but are then used as an excuse for apathy.
    I believe in the future of NEWSPACE which is under direction from dreamers, but that sole statement caused me to loose faith in the future of government funded development of the high frontier.