A space shuttle on the back of the special 747 just flew over my house on its way to its final resting place in LA. It was a proud but bittersweet sight because it was a taste of what had been in an era that’s come to a close for our manned space exploration program. We got a call from a friend that it was coming, walked out onto our deck, and there it was within a couple of minutes. The trio of aircraft (there was a fighter escort) were moving along at a stately pace and at a fairly low altitude to give anyone who cared a chance to see the craft fly, one last time, albeit with a lot of help.
I’ve seen the Saturn V rocket, laying on the ground at the Houston Manned Spacecraft Center. I’ve been through Mission Control there. In New York, I’ve been aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid where they have other amazing aircraft that no longer fly. You can walk through a Concord supersonic transport and touch the titanium skin of the still futuristic SR-71. There are a lot of dinosaur bones out there–the remnants of once-great beasts that roamed the skies unchallenged but that have become extinct in our time.
We can do a lot of things today that they couldn’t back then. I’m sure my phone has more computing power than whatever computers were available to help with the design of these aircraft. There are amateur-class CNC machine tools available cheaply and in home shops all over that probably rival the simple CNC knee mills used to build most of these projects, let alone the manual machine work. Parts that only NASA and their contractors could build back then can be made at home today.
But sometimes I still wonder. We can no longer put men on the moon or even men into orbit without another country’s help. We can’t fly supersonically as civilians. Heck, we can’t even get through airports without having to take off our shoes and belts.
Has there really been much progress?
Not as much as there should be. Let’s get busy, people. I still want to drive the flying car I was promised the future would bring!
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