While Case Western’s career fair was a hustling, bustling event full of wonderful companies and unbelievable opportunities, I found I was not alone in feeling as if there was a gaping hole in Veale this past week. A black hole, if you will allow some poetic licence in the phrasing. This hole was left by NASA. The John Glenn Research Center table was empty at this year’s fall career fair and the reason for their absence was none other than the government shutdown.
Personally, the government shutdown was simply a bleakly hilarious concept until I saw the utterly sobering sight of a NASA table without NASA. I don’t know if it was the idea that scientific progress was being directly halted by bureaucratic nonsense, or just the concept of a world without NASA that disturbed me, but no matter the case, I was not impressed. The widespread consequences of the current government shutdown finally hit home as soon as I started thinking about just how much this ongoing showdown could be impacting the agencies which I find essential, mostly NASA. Truly, the shutdown is impacting me in a number of ways, but for a moment I would like to focus primarily on the idea of a world without NASA.
It must be something about the idea of outer space, aliens or rockets that really just excites everyone. No matter a person’s age, profession or interests, I’ve come to find that everyone gets excited about NASA. For my parents, NASA was the symbol of exploration and progress with programs such as the Apollo and Gemini projects. For our generation, outer space is everchanging and elusive, and NASA acts as our connection to this fascinating world of possibilities. More than any other facet of life, the idea of the universe, of infinite space, of changes and processes which boggle the mind, these are the elements of mystery which drive progress and inspire individuals to achieve great things.
NASA is a government agency, but it’s really so much more than that for the American public. There’s a certain importance connected to the work of NASA which seems to transcend their daily tasks and average functionings. I think that extra importance comes from both the difficulty of the work the agency accomplishes as well as the ideas of continued progress and scientific exploration that is indirectly fostered by the existence of such a program.
Basically, NASA inspired some of us to become engineers and scientists, simple as that. The idea of being an astronaut will never go out of style because it is one of the most amazing experiences one could ask for— to leave planet Earth will always be a dream of both little kids and adults alike, and I think this should never change. To shoot for the stars is an ambitious goal, but it is one which agencies such as NASA allow us to believe possible.
Many of us were slighted of some opportunities at this past career fair for reasons completely out of our control. Those who would have spoken to NASA representatives and found fresh inspiration in their encouragement, research and stories were left defeated by an empty table. To top it all off, NASA’s website ceased to function when Congress and the wheels of our larger government came to a grinding halt, so applications and opportunities have been left a mystery.
Like NASA, most other government agencies are ghost ships right now, functioning only enough to work once the messy details have been hashed out and some serious compromise comes to Congress.While I’m sure NASA and all the other government-run agencies will come back into the full swing of things shortly, it’s strange to think how many of our peers have been impacted by the momentary lapse in government progress in ways we have yet to even realize.
Ashley Yarus is a second-year student studying chemical engineering.