Remember when space mattered?

Published 3:42 am Monday, February 11, 2008

By Staff
Priorities - something given  or meriting attention before competing alternatives. That definition came from Merriam Webster and I'll take it as the authority on the word. Clearly, some television networks have a skewed view of priorities.
I can remember  a time, not too many years ago, that every television station carried live coverage of any type of space exploration or travel.
Sitting in front of the television listening to the count down and hearing the rumble of the space craft as it began its course to leave this Earth is a vivid memory for  me. For some reason, hearing that rumble always gave me a little tingle in my tummy. Just knowing there were people on board that ship headed to the moon or just to wander around among the stars gave me a quickening feeling and maybe, even a little feeling of jealousy.
The reason I mention “priorities” and “space travel” is this: how many of you realize that on  Thursday, there was a shuttle launch?
On Thursday evening, I checked on the Internet and the most up to date item I found about the launch that occurred just before 3 p.m. on Thursday, was a report that was posted saying there could be a delay due to weather.
Did the actual lift-off of the Shuttle Atlantis not warrant an updated bit of information on the  “information highway” of all places?
It has been just over 22 years ago (has it been that long) that the space shuttle Challenger began its mission into space. As you remember, the mission only lasted 73 seconds before disintegrating before our very eyes. Millions and millions of people saw that explosion that claimed the life of the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, along with all six of the other members of the flight team that  day.
Do you remember the names of anyone who has been onboard any of those other shuttle missions since that fateful day in January of 1986? Chances are if you do, you only remember a couple of names. According to the NASA Web site, there have been at least 96 shuttle missions since the loss of the Challenger. I wonder how many we've actually seen on  television.
I, ashamedly, wasn't even aware that a space mission was in the works. However, being at home on Thursday afternoon I was able to  witness the event. The sad thing is, only one network even mentioned the event.
Fox television network, not Fox News, televised the lift-off of  Atlantis and kept the cameras rolling until sold rocket boosters were separated from the space craft.
Since I live outside the city limits, my television is on a satellite system. I have access to three stations each for NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. The Fox affiliate out of New York was the only station that carried the event live as far as I could determine.
Once I realized what was going on, I was curious enough to switch across the channels. Two other affiliates were doing their mid-day reports, but not one was covering the event at the time.
I wasn't all that upset about the  lack of coverage by national television networks. We really have gotten used to having shuttles lift off on a regular basis. Of those 96 shuttle missions I mentioned, I can't recall hearing anything bad about any of those missions. I guess it's becoming so ordinary that we no longer are amazed by the fact that someone is flying to the moon or dropping folks off at some space station floating around among the stars we see at night.
What did upset me a little later in the day is that within about 10 minutes of each other, ABC and NBC broke into regular programming with a special news update.
Having been witness to the lift-off of Atlantis some time earlier, I got a little scared when they broke in on a show I was watching. My mind went back to the day that Challenger exploded and I was afraid something had happened to this shuttle.
Nope, that wasn't it. Those networks broke into their regular programming to tell us that Mitt Romney was “suspending” his race for the presidency.
Yes, network television's priorities have certainly changed over the years. Only one network cared about a trip into outer space but almost all of them cared that some politician was calling it quits. I don't know Mr. Romney personally, but I have a hard time believing he is more important than space travel.
Funny how time changes things.
Lisa Tindell is news editor of The Brewton Standard.

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