The End of the Shuttle

"What is it? It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a SPACE SHUTTLE!"

It's hard to know where to begin with a story when one is facing the end of it. Nevertheless, some effort must be made to acknowledge the retirement of the space shuttle - and the end of space travel as we know it. Scheduled to take off sometime mid-November of this year, the Endeavour will mark NASA's final shuttle mission.

Although NASA will continue to work on things such as Mars exploration (using robotic craft), and the study of stars and planets both in our galaxy and beyond, the future of manned space-craft is so uncertain and unlikely that it could be up to 10 or 20 years before an American astronaut again steps out onto the dusty soil of the moon's surface - and possibly longer before he can stand on Mars and see the red planet with his own eyes.

To be fair, none of the shuttles ever made it to the moon, but that only makes the retirement all the more saddening. If the government cared so little about landing on the moon in recent years, how much does it care about the exploration of space at all, now that the one connector between the Earth and the vacuum has been discarded without a replacement?

Therefore, we remember the shuttle as we remember the Apollo missions. Perhaps the shuttle's accomplishments were comparatively insignificant. Perhaps it's experiments weren't as ground-breaking as those during the Apollo period. Nevertheless, the symbol that it stands for: the delight of exploration, the importance of technological advance, and most notably, the self-sacrifice and bravery of those men and women who risked their lives - and of those who died, most notably those of the Challenger and the Colombia - for the furthering of our understanding of natural phenomenons and the physical universe - is no less great than past achievements. Thus we see the conclusion of this chapter in history come to an end.


Contemplations on Death, Part II

It seems several months since I posted the first part to this series, though in reality it has only been weeks. I had started working on this section a while ago, and stopped because I was having difficulty expressing my thoughts clearly while providing a strong logical foundation, and at the same time stay on topic and keep the post from running to a length of 50 paragraphs. Here I have returned to the problem at hand, at last, hopefully able to both hold my readers attention and other him a reasonable explanation of my beliefs and the reasons for them.

Unfortunately, due to the lengthy content of this post, I will have to gradually lead up to a conclusion, but leave the reader once more in suspense as I split up my series into further divisions. This post will look at the existence of the eternal, which I believe offers the only real reason for life, and will go no further.

First of all, there is something inside of everyone that accepts a definite right and a definite wrong. Some will dispute this fact, and might even claim that it is wrong of me to say so, because isn't that legalism? Isn't that forcing everyone to accept my sense of morals? Yet, their very claim is proving my point; they are accusing me of being wrong, but if there is no right or wrong, than I cannot possibly be in the wrong. They are making the assumption that legalism is a bad thing.

I recently read a section of The Octopus by Frank Norris. To be fair, I didn't read all that much, but I think I have the basic gist of the plot. In the story, humans are portrayed as helpless pawns in the hand of an unsympathetic Nature. Written by a notable naturalist, the story makes it clear that the only reason for life offered by the naturalist view is that of self-survival. There is no sense of right or wrong, but merely the work of trying to stay alive in spite of many forces working against you. Yet, the railroad owner, a particularly annoying and cruel man, dies a slow and painful death that the reader is forced to look upon as being just and fitting as a result for the man's actions. Here, too, there is an unspoken sense of what is right and wrong.

Where did this sense of right and wrong come from? If man can deny it so emphatically and yet unconciously support it, it must be a part of man that is so ingrained in him that it cannot be discarded. Is it really possible that even if a man could be assembled randomly by mud and slime in an evolutionary process, that he could also have an unspoken list of no-no's placed inside of him, making him guilty when he goes against it and commending him when he follows it? It seems highly inprobably to me. It points to something - or someone - eternal; something outside of man.

Moreover, a study of physics will reveal an even more baffling problem to those who deny the existence of the eternal. According to the laws of thermodynamics, matter can neither be created or destroyed. How then could the Big Bang happen without either matter or energy or both? There are two kinds of energy: potential energy and kinetic energy. If I were to set a ball on a shelf, that ball would hold potential energy, because it holds the capacity to fall or roll. If I were to push the ball off the shelf, my application of force would transform that potential energy into kinetic energy, a state of activity.

Now supposing that there was nothing - not even space. Absolutely nothing. Trying to picture nothing would leave one with the impression of an empty space or an empty darkness. But both of these are not nothings; they are, in fact, somethings. Respectively, they are "space" and "darkness." We can not fathom a state of nothingness, because it would have no conceivable quality - it has no color, no form (not even emptiness), no volume, no measurable quantity - it has nothing because it is nothing.

Very clearly, a nothing has no energy or matter. If it had the slightest trace of any of these things, it would instantly become a something, and we would immediately be confronted with the question, "where did that something come from?" Obviously, with no potential energy, and no force of kinetic energy to trigger the potential energy into more kinetic energy, which could very possibly turn into something similar to the concept of the Big Bang Theory, we would be left with an infinite nothingness. I say infinite, because nothing could break its state of nothingness at any time, but I am assuming that it is still holding to the rules of time. Nothing would be outside of time, because time is a something.

So how did we get from a state of Nothingness to a state of Somethingness? There is no possible way. The only way we could exist today is if something had always been - had always existed. Whether this something was a great store of energy that exploded into the universe, or else something else - I leave it to the reader to make his choice.