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Despicable Us

July 19, 2010

My girls (wife, daughter) and I went to see “Despicable Me” on Saturday. The best I can say is that it managed to keep waking me up during my nap. My 7 yr old kid, however, loved it. She loved it enough to see it again on Sunday with one of her friends. It seemed that the juvenile and sometimes bathroom humor, combined with the inexplicably idiotic “minions”, captured the hearts and minds of the little girls. Oh well, that is why there are kids movies.

Since the movie seemed intent on being loud enough to keep my slumber at bay, I did manage to pick up on some elements of the “plot”. It seems that the main character, Gru, wants to steal the moon. I can get behind grand aspirations and such, so this bit didn’t really bother me. Gru has wanted to go to the moon since he was a child, building more and more sophisticated versions of a rocket as he matures.

Late in the movie, as the rocket finally roars into space, I had my revelation. My child, and most of her generation, have no real world analogue to this fantasy trip to the moon. To them, I imagine this is the stuff of fantasy. We have all but abandoned our space program in this country and seemingly have no desire or will to revive it in the future. Our country has become Earth-bound.

When she was younger I read the kid a wonderful book about astronauts that I had purchased on a visit to the Kennedy Space Center. I tried to instill in her the wonder and hope that I had when I was a child. People actually went to the Moon when I was a child and Mars seemed just a step away. Kids dreamed of space travel because we were on a path to make it real.

I want my child to know that travel to the Moon is not just the stuff of a second-rate animated flick. It is something we once did — something that helped restore our national pride — and that we should do again. Even in the worst of economic and social times we need to dream and to achieve. We need to inspire and be inspired.

Much of the risk-taking, if it can be called that, in space travel is now being driven from the private sector. I sincerely applaud these efforts and hope they can find a viable economic model to continue their efforts. But, I don’t think that is enough. This is an opportunity for all of us to feel we can rise to the Moon and stars again. To dream.

Other countries are already investing and may soon surpass our capabilities in manned space flight. To that I say “despicable us.”

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