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In Memory

I happened upon a message board discussion about this morning's tragedy, the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia on re-entry. One respondent described herself as "wondering why they keep going back up there."

For an answer, I turn to a monologue written by J. Michael Straczynski for Babylon 5.

Reporter: "After all that you've just gone through, I have to ask you the same question a lot of people back home are asking about space these days. Is it worth it? Should we just pull back, forget the whole thing as a bad idea, and take care of our own problems, at home?"

Sinclair: "No. We have to stay here, and there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics - and you'll get ten different answers. But there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on: whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us, it'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes - all of this.

"All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars."


And because we're human beings and exploring is what we do and has always been what we do.

(Not to say that the space shuttle program is the best of all possible options for achieving the goals we've defined for space exploration, or even that we have well-defined goals yet. But still.)