Yesterday was Valentines Day.  More correctly, Saint Valentines Day, where we celebrate love and affection for those we cherish most.

No mother should have to see her child die, much less her grandchild and be present at the stillbirth of the third generation of her progeny.

Yes, I received the obligatory flowers and candy and while I am surrounded by the love of  my worldly children, but I cannot help but weep for the loss I am feeling for my spiritual children…

I was present at the birth of Apollo, changed his diapers so to speak and watched him grow healthy, strong and mature, only to see him cut down in the prime of his life.

And I cried…

I was there, at least in spirit if not body when Shuttle was born, so
lovely, so capable, so wonderful and so versatile.  And now I sit here, maintaining
a death watch as she draws her last breaths.

And I am crying…

And in the depths of my sadness for our lost children, I see the last of our kind, stillborn.  Constellation, dead without every having had the opportunity of meeting the promise of all who had a part in her creation.

And I have no more tears to shed…

I think of those who so ably served Shuttle, and yes, even the few of
us who are still around who remember Apollo, who worked on them and were
there to hear the thunder of their voices as they rose so majestically
toward the heavens,

Yes, America’s astronauts will still fly to the ISS, albeit paying $51 million for each of six seats aboard a Russian Soyuz.  After that who knows.  The head of Roskosmos has already gone on record giving us fair warning that following the current contract, the price tag will be much, much higher…regarding the current contract for six seats, Roskomos head Anatoly Perminov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying:

“We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for
this. But after that? Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely
different then!”

At the same time, the Russians announced they were going forward with the development of their next generation vehicle, designed to replace their venerable Soyuz.

China and India are knee deep in the development of manned programs, while we cede to them the playing field.

There is an old adage, “Nobody likes a quitter!”

Will American entrepreneurs rise to the occasion and give birth to a whole new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles?  I really don’t know.  Are their pockets deep enough?  Again, I don’t know.

Perhaps, if the companies heading up the efforts will be privately owned and not subject to stockholders demands for dividends and a return on their investment.  The management of Boeing and Lockheed Martin will most assuredly decline to foot the bill, after all, they like Congress must answer to a constituency.  This leaves it to folks like Bigelow and Musk and Marsden to keep the dream alive.

One thing I do know.  One thing is certain.  I will not live long enough to see American men and women ride aloft in a space bound vehicle that proudly proclaims…

“Made in the USA”