We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
– Robert A. Heinlein

Earlier today, Atlantis, America’s last space shuttle – America’s last means of reaching even low orbit – landed safely.

Now, our nation, like our astronauts, is grounded. The best we can do is to beg or buy a ride with the Russians who, despite their many problems, haven’t given up on spaceflight. Before too many years pass, the Chinese may be able and willing to take an American up with them.

We are too beaten down to lift our eyes to the stars and dream and dare. Where once our questing spirit rode rockets it now rides Rocinante and pines for a hitching post.

The last word goes to the Apollo-era flight director who oversaw our glory days:

I pray that our nation will someday soon find the courage to accept the risk and challenge to finish the work that we started.
– Gene Kranz