Did the dreams of millions end in a ball of fire over the sky over Texas? Because of the tragic destruction of the shuttle Columbia, many will question the very need to have a human presence in space. A powerful argument will be made that in an era of pessimism and terrorism, space travel is a luxury that only an era of optimism and prosperity can afford.

But if Americans in space doesn’t mean more than technological spinoffs and weightless mice, then why does such an accident touch all of us so much more deeply than an airline crash? Because space exploration has given humanity, especially Americans, a deep sense of pride and accomplishment.

Astronauts are heroes to our youth. Even when routine, space travel fires the dreams of us all. It shows that humans can cooperate toward a beneficial goal, that we are not doomed to continually kill one another’s children.

A presence in space still offers hope that humanity has a future beyond a violent and decaying Earth.

The vision of manned exploration of space is too important to allow it to be lost. It is in a time of trouble and hardship that an optimistic vision of our future is most needed.

George Glass, Lewiston

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