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Volume 6, Issue 3                                    University of Houston

Little hope remains for aeronautical achievement 
until Death Star is built

Zach Lee
Opinion columnist

Less than a year after the space shuttle Columbia was ripped apart in a freak accident 200,000 feet above Texas on Feb. 1, 2002, NASA has rebounded with new progress in its exploration of space.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's robotic explorer, Spirit, landed Sunday, and the craft beamed 3-D images back to Earth on Monday. Mission controllers in Pasadena, Calif., put themselves on Mars time, dedicating an extra 40 minutes a day to work and blocking out their windows for the 90-day mission.

Who's impressed?

No one should be. The space program is crawling along, and the only thing that could save it is the resurrection of the Soviet Union. NASA has no one with whom to compete now, and the program is progressing at a snail's pace.

I turned 16 in 2000, and I was less than surprised when there was no floating car in the air above my driveway for my birthday. I never expected to see the house-cleaning robots or energy swords that TV and movies told my parents they could expect. I hardly noticed that none of my friends were cyborgs.

Sure, science fiction is half fiction, but Star Wars nerds and the Bush administration would agree: It's time to see an operational Death Star. It would fulfill dreams and defeat rogue planets. What's not to like? Well, the price tag for one. A multi-quintillion dollar project like the Death Star would not be terribly popular with those Americans who move out of their father's house and actually pay taxes. And as much as Americans would love to have those little gadgets that take over everyday tasks for the price of four AA batteries, we also love our money.

The Cullen College of Engineering at UH has solid teaching and is closely tied to NASA. Certainly, some of the same engineering students will create new and innovative satellites for NASA after they graduate. Years ago, graduates could have done what is being lauded today, had they received the funding they needed for their projects.

Of course, for various reasons, NASA has not received the funding it so desperately needs. The government has seen fit to redirect funds into chasing down vicious marijuana users and slowing down lines at airports. We are sacrificing our colonies on the moon and mastery of wormholes while bogging ourselves down on the blue planet. Spaceships cost money.

As an adjective, "space age" belongs with "stone age" and "iron age" as symbols of times lost to change. By all appearances, the space age is over. NASA may discover some type of alien bacteria on the surface of the red planet, but it'll never put oxygen generators and housing units there unless it gets more money from us.

When the final Star Wars movie comes out, consider the last two and opt to wait for the video. Pay your taxes instead of the ticket price, so you're on the right side when the Death Star is built.

Lee, a sophomore English major, 
can be reached at

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