I wrote my MA Thesis on Wernher von Braun and the German Rocket Team in America. I am an ardent fan of space exploration both human and robotic. I think my interest was fueled by my life-long addiction to Star Trek. I grew up watching science-fiction slowly become science fact. Our rate of progress is too slow (in my opinion) as I really want to live to experience cool Treknolgy like Transporters, Replicators, Warp Drive, Tricorders, nanotech, AI, meeting sentient alien beings, etc. Realistically, I just hope I live long enough to see humans land successfully on Mars.
My love of space exploration and Star Trek are the philosophical foundation for my Secular Humanism. There are a diversity of people with differing worldviews who are inspired by the exploration of space. Humanity is divided on so many issues and it seems like there is little we can agree upon. I believe that our space program is an epic adventure into the unknown Cosmos that will one day unite our species. I remain optimistic that we will overcome the myriad of problems that challenge us today to fulfill our destiny as a space-faring people. This is why I am such a firm supporter of NASA and their mission of exploration. I welcome the addition of commercial endeavors like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, XCOR, Bigelow Aerospace, Orbital, etc., that will work to deliver astronauts, cargo and services to LEO. Hopefully, the work performed by these companies will allow NASA to focus on a return to the moon to establish a permanent base, missions to asteroids, and eventually, a mission to Mars.
The closest I will get to exploring space is by researching the experiences of those who have participated in this grand endeavor. The history of space exploration is a rich field that I enjoy investigating. If we learn the lessons of what got us into space in the past, we can apply them to doing a better job in the future. The original basis for NASA was political, a response to being embarrassed by the Soviet Union on the world stage. This fueled an exciting period of advancement in the Space Race after President Kennedy challenged the United States to land men on the moon by the end of the decade and return them safely to the earth. (This is an iconic speech worth watching at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouRbkBAOGEw)
The problem with a Space Race is that many of our government leaders and the American people saw the success of Apollo 11 as the victory in said race and their interest moved on to other matters. There were pressing social issues and a war raging in Vietnam that took precedence. The Shuttle Program had a tortured path to the launch pad and suffered two catastrophic accidents during its 30 years in service. Now we ponder what will come next for NASA. Will the SLS Program survive the change in the White House? Is there enough political support to fund NASA at the level needed to have a reasonable human space effort? Will robotic missions be sacrificed? We have the technology to achieve great things for humanity if we just find the will to do so.