The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Favor the bold

Don’t Tread on Me
 Favor the bold
Favor the bold

Favor the bold

It has been said that fortune favors the bold. After the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, such words may resonate with a hollow ring. But beyond their sentimentality lies a powerful truth – one that we must take to heart as we face an uncertain future.

Already in print and on the Web there grows a murmur of concern about our space program. Not concern about how to improve or mend it, but concern that it may be time to end it. Those who are timid, shortsighted or simply cowardly have never understood the importance of the space program, and now that America has suffered its second major shuttle disaster, they may feel it is time to strike a blow for backwards thinking and trepidation.

What they fail to understand is that manned space travel is more than the most virtuous endeavor in American history; it may well be the most important human triumph of all time.

Sure, NASA has had its ups and downs. The 1990s saw a suppression of the agency’s budget, which no doubt factored into foibles like the Mars Global Surveyor. But if NASA has problems because it’s not being properly funded then the issue is not NASA’s mission, but the political forces that are interfering with it.

Which is ironic, for NASA and space travel raise the profile of all that is great about America. NASA’s endeavors present the America that our global neighbors love – the daring challenger of the unknown that put men on the moon not in the name of one imperial state, but instead for the benefit of “all mankind.” In a world where America is increasingly seen as a bully, to reinforce such memories is well worth any costs involved in increasing NASA’s budget.

But more important than its impact on America’s international image, NASA also represents the best hope for the continued survival of mankind. For in this universe, there is only one thing that is certain: this planet and everyone on it will one day be destroyed. Whether by a war of our own making, or the death of our sun or the impact of an asteroid, this planet will be eradicated.

And if humanity is still confined to the Earth’s fragile embrace, then we will die. When this world dies all of mankind’s achievements, all of our art, all of our dreams, will die with it. Unless, that is, we break free of our terrestrial womb and spread our people among the worlds and stars about us. If we take seriously the command of common mythology to go forth, be fruitful and multiply, and go forth to the stars and multiply the breadth of our fruitful reach, then extinction need never smother humanity’s flame.

But to go to the stars we must be able to walk among them, and before we can walk, we must crawl. NASA is that crawl. It is our best hope to make those first furtive forays into the final frontier. It is our best hope for securing in perpetuity a future for humanity.

Which is why we must look at the wreckage of Columbia and be not discouraged, but inspired. Inspired to renew our commitment to NASA, to set a goal of placing a man on Mars and to build the infrastructure – a space elevator, a space plane, a lunar station – necessary to do so. We have lost the crew of Columbia, the crew of Challenger, the crew of Apollo 1. But we cannot afford to lose their spirit, nor our drive to reach to the stars, or tomorrow we all may die. We must move forward, no matter what the timid may say.

The timid will look at the Columbia and be frightened. The bold will be challenged to discover what went wrong and how to fix it. The timid will wring their hands and furrow their brows, whispering that this should be the end of human space travel. The bold will fix their courage to the sticking point and realize that to retreat from space is to retreat from our only possible future.

The timid will tell us that the price we pay in blood is not balanced by the frontiers space travel has opened. The bold will see that such concerns are grounded in a Luddite-like worldview that will find no berth upon the shores of tomorrow.

Will we retreat from tomorrow or engage its challenge? At stake is not only the future of America’s space program, but perhaps the future of mankind.

Some still look at the night sky and feel the chill of fear. They will join with the timid, and call for humanity to return to our caves and toss aside our destiny for the chimera of safety to be found by never going anywhere new.

We cannot listen to them. We must embrace the future and the challenges and losses it will bring. We must not be frightened by the dark of the void, but instead humbled and driven by its power. We must show the universe that mankind’s spirit cannot be put down even by the loss of seven noble souls.

To flourish in the future, we must rebuke the timid. We must be like fortune. We must favor the bold.

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