The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning

I decided to go to the launch this weekend because it’s currently scheduled to be the last night launch of the space shuttle.

Since making that decision, however, it has become possible that it will be one of the last five times that NASA launches its own astronauts into space.

Which is weird.

I’m not going to get into an analysis of the budget announcement yesterday at this point. Partially because I don’t know all the details yet, and don’t want to misjudge it. Partially because I haven’t had a chance to dig past the spin yet — apparently, the new plans do away with going back to the moon and also prepare the way for going back to the moon. Depending on who you ask. And partially because some people don’t believe it’s all said and done yet — that a battle is coming that could yet shape the fate of the agency.

What I do know is this — one way or another, the discussion that peaked with Monday’s budget announcement will reshape the direction of human space exploration, either by, most likely, dramatically changing it, or, less likely, by cementing the path in which things have been heading. And that, either way, it will be my job to convince students that path is the best one for the nation and to excite them about what the future holds.

I’ll be honest. A week ago, that was spoken purely out of duty. The idea of losing Ares was overwhelming, and the fear of losing the moon even moreso. If called into the service of my country to defend those choices, I would. But my heart wouldn’t necessarily be in it.

Right now, I will say only that my thoughts have evolved since then. I won’t say publicly what my preference is, since I don’t know what the future holds. But I will say that I will be able to rest with whatever happens. Whichever way things go, an interesting future lies ahead; one that will usher in a new era of exploration.

So I’m proud to have the opportunity to advocate for that future.

But if I’d had to do it out of duty — that duty would be an honor to bear. This week, this conversation, and the gala I attended at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center this past weekend, have all been great reminders of what a privilege it is to be able to do what I do, and what an incredible organization I’m blessed to be a part of.

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