Nation Struggles To Give A Shit About Astronauts
Americans, stung by a fledgling economy and frustrated over the ongoing war in Iraq, tried in vain to be impressed by the brave acts of the astronauts aboard space shuttle Endeavor as the mission came to an end this past weekend, only to feel, as one observer put it, "vaguely dissatisfied and bored".
NASA officials had hoped that the heroism of the seven astronauts aboard STS-123 would have at least given Americans a pleasant distraction from the impending recession, though Nielsen ratings showed that "Celebrity Apprentice" was the nation's preferred divagation from the 4,000th troop to be killed in Iraq.
"While the mission was a resounding success, it has failed to revive the economy, stop the [Iraq] war or bring about world peace," said NASA director of operations Rick Navarro. "Not that it's a failure, technically, but for every scientific accomplishment our brave personnel made, there has been another soldier killed in Iraq, and I guess that calls into question all that money being thrown at the space program."
He went on to explain further, but this reporter found it difficult to care about what he had to say.
Despite an abundance of distractions from the dour economic outlook, and the ostensibly ceaseless carnage in the Middle East, the space program is not one of them. Even Americans who long for the days when the space program was as important as the grocery store tabloids, or even US Magazine, expressed difficulty in giving "more than one shit, much less two" about the progress on the International Space Station and the technical achievements made by the six American and one Japanese astronauts.
"Back in my day, the space race between the US and Russia was the biggest thing on TV, but now it's barely even making the back page of the news," lamented Matthew Dean, 61, of Scranton, PA. "Even if Frank Sinatra was caught cheating on Mia Farrow, it didn't compare to Apollo 8 making the first manned flight around the moon, but now it seems that Owen Wilson's latest girlfriend is more important to most Americans than the miracle job that the astronauts did on [space robot] Drexel."
"But that Kate Hudson and Owen [Wilson] do make for a lovely couple," added Dean.
A number of Americans, feeling extreme guilt over not knowing that the International Space Station actually exists, or that Dextre is not an American Idol contestant but a space robot, planned an impromptu celebration for the astronauts, due to land at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday. Placards and signs reading, "We love you Sanjaya Amanda Endeavor Crew," and, "Did You Bring Us Back Moonrocks?" were being made in anticipation of the shuttle's return.
"It's so exhilarating knowing that there are men and women -- mostly men -- who will risk their lives in the name of science, and for the advancement of human knowledge, whatever it was they were doing up there," expressed space shuttle enthusiast and Top Chef viewer Donald Donaldson of Downer's Grove, IL. "If it hadn't been for Evangelos 'Spike' Mendelsohn's antics [on 'Top Chef Chicago'], then you can be sure that I would have been watching in rapt attention the advancements that the astronauts achieved towards curing diseases, helping the poor and defeating communism, but that crass and goofy Spike was just a gas! You know what I mean?"
The 12-day mission ended on Monday as Endeavor re-entered the earth's atmosphere at 7:56, just before "How I Met Your Mother".