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The space shuttle Atlantis made its final landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on July 21, 2011. This completed  a 30-year odyssey for NASA’s shuttle fleet. This reminded me a discussion, which I had with with my seven year old son this week.

The shuttle Atlantis glided through a moonlit sky for its final landing. (Source: REUTERS/Don Emmert)

It was cloudy Thursday morning about 8:15 am. I was taking my son to a dentist appointment. As usual NPR 88.5 FM was playing in the car and my son Rishu was sitting on the back seat. They were playing a story about NASA space shuttle program and talking how NASA is canceling a number of future programs because of budget cuts. Suddenly my son asked me from back seat – “Papa! I have a question?”. And he continued “Don’t you think it is important to explore more in space, we still don’t know about other planets.” I gave him my usual response “Yes! we should.”. He fired his next question, “If NASA stopped flying their shuttle, how will we do it in future?”. I answered “They don’t have enough money to fly this expensive shuttle.” He proposed me a solution “Why can’t government take more tax from everyone and give more money to NASA?”. I was really surprised with this seven year old’s knowledge about macroeconomic principal and his worry about future innovation and replied in mumbling voice “May be, they can. But I am not sure about it.” He also stopped asking question because we were already in parking lot and running late for dentist appointment.

Now after two days, when Atlantis is finally grounded. I am again thinking about all the beautiful innovations like new materials and GPS systems gifted to us as a result of innovation in space program. I am still thinking how will we be able to bring back our original instinct of innovation and continue our journey for exploring new world after cutting NASA programs and budget.