It’s about 42 minutes to liftoff as I type this; I’d be lying to you and kidding myself if I didn’t fess up to saying a prayer that we’re about to see yet another shuttle mission go off without any life-threatening hitches. Not that the media reports of internal NASA strife over go/no-go votes suddenly have me thinking that this mission is unusually dangerous. Because, y’know, it’s never really safe. And it never has been. It wasn’t safe last year. And it wasn’t safe in 2003. And it wasn’t safe in 1986. Or 1967. And that’s why I have no problem still labeling astronauts as “heroes.” Because they still have the right stuff that it takes to strap themselves into that thing and go up there, even though it’s still not safe.
Don’t get me wrong, the questions are valid about the costs and benefits of the space program, about the safety of spending a quarter of a century flying a small fleet of spacecraft that was designed and signed off on during the Nixon administration, and about why it took so long for the “sudden” realization to set in that we need a new space vehicle. But when it’s this close to liftoff, I like to set those thoughts aside and send my best wishes to those folks who are in the shuttle. You know, my heroes.