Tuesday, August 02, 2005


By Elaine Meinel Supkis

The shuttle isn't doing so hot. I keep holding off talking about it because I am waiting for something to happen but it is still up and out there docked at the space station and like a station wagon stuck at a suburban train station, it isn't working so hot. One thing after another. I have had cars like that. Usually, after 100,000 miles, driving around without Chilton's manual detailing how to repair the car is dangerous.

Just recently, we finally had to ditch our Subaru because the rear supports for the springs that hold up the body from the wheel rusted through and collapsed. Nothing to even weld much less, repair. So we did the junk yard ceremonial heave ho.

The Space Shuttle had little to do aside from just going up and down. It was vital for the great Hubble Space Telescope but now this sole good reason for it existing has been deep sixed because the old jalopy can't drive so hot anymore. The fussing and worry about it far supersedes its utility. I once drove through Death Valley in a very old jalopy back in the sixties. As we clunked along, we being teenagers, we laughed about our adventure until the thing dropped a piston in the pan on a very remote road out in the middle of literal hell.

We looked at it and scratched our collective heads (no, we didn't have head lice) and decided to remove the hood so the engine wouldn't overheat and drive to Needles which was, I calculated, mostly downhill from where we were stranded. We couldn't wait for someone to come by. That would have been fatal.

So off we chugged, the engine howling. Flames shooting out of the carburetor. There was a bit of a climb before coming down into Needles and the jalopy nearly didn't make it. But we succeeded...smoke pouring from the engine, we came sailing into town, yelling. The firedepartment ran their engines out and everyone in town who heard the sirens came running. We jumped out of it and ran. The fire was put out before it blew up.

This isn't the sort of excitement astronauts dream of, it is not a good game plan for a space program. Even as everyone talks big, the actual money going into the space program is a mess because we need to cut our budget and have to sneak it by so the guys running America are trying to eke out some more miles on the Space Shuttle but this is getting vastly more costly by the second.

I bet most of you all have experienced this formula. You car eats up more per month in repairs than the cost of buying a new car's monthly payments but you can't go off and buy one right away because all the money you spent fixing the jalopy.

I wait with bated breath to see if the Space Shuttle can make it to Needles.

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