I'm normally a bit jaded about such things, but this morning the 747 carrying the space shuttle flew directly over our house in Los Angeles, at very low altitude... and it was an absolutely awesome sight! We were expecting to be able to see it fly over the Griffith Park Observatory, an easy spot from our balcony, and were keeping an eye out for it. But then, while I was in the house, I heard the approaching roar of jet engines and ran out to the balcony--sans camera!--and the thing just appeared from the hill behind us, accompanied by two fighter jets, and swooped low over the deck where I was now standing, looking up, and yelling for Ellie to come out. No picture, then. Too bad. But I managed to take this snapshot as it made another, more distant pass as it headed toward Pasadena.
The spectacle of such power, along with the often noble and at times tragic history of the space shuttle, was enough to touch a lot of otherwise skeptical hearts, to judge by the images and interviews on local television. It was, indeed, surprisingly, moving. The dreadful missteps of our species may not be fully matched by our achievements, but it's close. That we now possess the power and the know-how to send men into near space and our smart machines out into the further reaches of the solar system and beyond is indeed remarkable. I myself regret that we have found it necessary to weigh the great spirit of exploration against our pocketbook, and have narrowed our vision to earthbound concerns. The richest country in the history of the world could surely find the means to both take care of its needy and reach out for the stars.