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Space Exploration Day
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Well, I'm back home, and I've finally got a chance to blog at length about the Columbia disaster.

I watched a lot of the coverage and read quite a few of the reactions in blogland, and for the most part I get a sense that many feel this was somehow inevitable (I've even heard surprise that there haven't been more shuttles lost). But I don't get the sense that most people feel that it's the end of the shuttle program or even human space flight. I do wonder what the impact to the recently green-lighted nuclear rocket program, the Prometheus Project (the thought of a nuclear rocket disintegrating on either liftoff or reentry will probably make people even more apprehensive now). But mostly I get a sense (from the people I've read) of resolve. Those astronauts knew the risk and willingly took it, and humanity is that much nobler for their bravery and their efforts.

Thinking back on the Challenger explosion (my 9th grade biology teacher broke the news to our class), and recalling others lost in the pursuit of space exploration, such as the Apollo 1 astronauts who died on the launch pad during a test, I wondered if there were a day for honoring and remembering those lives that were specifically given for the pursuit of knowledge.

Those that fight and often die in war deserve our respect and rememberance, and for them we have Memorial Day. But dying on a battlefield and dying by taking that first step into an dangerously unknown void, so that someday others might live among the stars and traverse great distances with ease...well, that seems qualitatively different to me. So I found this:

Proclamation 5224 -- Space Exploration Day, 1984
July 20, 1984
By the President of the United States of America

That would be Ronald Reagan. In 1984 he declared July 20th, the day Neal Armstrong landed on the moon, Space Exploration Day. He said this:

Space exploration is a quest for knowledge -- knowledge about what lies outside the confines of the Earth's atmosphere and knowledge about the Earth itself. The information obtained adds greatly to the accumulated wisdom of mankind necessary for an understanding of the fundamental processes and origins of life, providing insight into perplexing mysteries of the universe. Because space has no boundaries, the information and benefits from space exploration accrue to mankind's advantage in many different spheres.

There are other parts of the speech that are not so good, but I don't want to digress. This part, at least, is good.

Now perhaps many of you out there knew that July 20th was Space Exploration Day. I didn't. And I don't know how many people use it as a rememberance to those that have given their lives in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration. Hopefully, in the future, more will.

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