For my parents, the defining moment of space exploration was the moon landing. Especially for m father who worked directly on the Apollo project. You almost have to wonder if the boiling over of the 60s wasn’t cooled by the sheer wonder of that single event.

For GenXers like me, it was the Challenger disaster. Both represented extreme poles of hope in space exploration. In the wake of Apollo, movies predicted moon bases and manned missions to Jupiter by the turn of the century.

After Challenger, it became clear that Apollo wasn’t the beginning of the Golden Age of space exploration–it was the end. Sure, there were a few neat images coming back from planetary probes, but there were also a number of blunders.

My hypothesis has been that after the invention of the microchip, human technology came to focus on the small instead of the large. Thus, world-wide communications, the Internet, and computing devices. These things are all probably much more powerful now than a futurologist in 1970 would have expected, but we are far behind in the space race.

When the Columbia was lost, to me it was a symbol of the further downfall of the US from its Golden Age. No one in 1969 would have expected that in 2007 we were still using 30 year old space shuttles (sure–Endeavor is somewhat newer) any more than they would still have been using P-51s in the Air Force in 1974. And they should have stopped there.

Now, there is a hole in Endeavor. The same kind of hole that killed Columbia. We’ll see how it works out, but as they said in one sci-fi flick, I have a very bad feeling about this.

If there was one good thing to come out of the Bush Administration, it was the more appropriate use of the military-industrial complex to reinvigorate space exploration. Going back to the moon by 2020 is something I look forward to seeing.