But also, so much more. Among other things, what's riding on this shuttle mission is: the next phase of the space age.
There was the original space race, and race to the moon against the Russians phase. Then the era of the Space Shuttle and the Mir.
And now, we are moving to the era of the big space station. Which is to be a way station on the way to putting humans on Mars, and later, the planets beyond.
Part of what's riding on this Space Shuttle mission is Mars or bust. Go, or no go. New technology and new propulsion systems figure to make Mars seem more within reach. This mission, the one begun today, will help determine whether these systems can survive the long journey to Mars and beyond.
Many aging, armchair astronauts and their wide-eyed children and grand children are hoping. Hoping the hope of a brighter future. This kind of Star Trek, as the great science fact and fiction writer Issac Asimov once put it, gives people a reason to think there is a future and that the future will be good.
Space is, as the late President John Kennedy called it, the new ocean. On it we will sail, we are now sailing, to new worlds.
Out there, up there, there are new worlds to conquer. And on this new ocean, and in the new worlds, is our future. Ours to make or break, for better or for worse. In that spirit, the hopes and dreams of every American ride tonight in the eerie, endless silence of space.
©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved