Still lots of space to be discovered

How did flying into space become so mundane that few people take notice of it anymore?In 1969, we all got to stay up past our bedtimes to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. We learned in 1986 (Challenger) and again in 2003 (Columbia) that unexpected tragedies could still happen. And now in 2011, we’ve come to the conclusion that Hollywood’s version is infinitely more interesting than the real thing. We are so much more wrapped up in our own daily existence these days than  we were when the black and white TV and Hi-Fi stereo were the top end of home entertainment.Last Saturday, Discovery docked with the International Space Station – 354 km above Australia – the distance between Cache Creek and Vancouver – on the supposedly last trip of the space shuttle mission that started in 1981 with Columbia. Short in distance but long in the effort put into space travel.Perhaps what grabbed us in days past was the possibilities that space travel opened for us. Are there no more possibilities? Will it take human travel to another planet to spark our interest?The only problem with that is our short attention span. We can’t follow a major event for 48 hours let alone the six years it would take us to travel 93 million miles to Mercury, the closest planet to the Earth. The space shuttle program was first launched in 1981 with Columbia. Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour followed over the years.This is Discovery’s 13th mission to the space station – a number that would make a lot of people cringe if they were paying attention. Its liftoff wasn’t entirely smooth, as pieces of fuel take debris broke loose as it flew off.The first shuttle to retire, after 26 years, 39 flights and 230 million km under its fuselage.Let’s hope it makes it to retirement. Best wishes and safe trip, Discovery.