When the space shuttle Atlantis flew NASA's last shuttle mission in the summer of 2011, it was not only the end of an era but the end of an American presence in space that had held dominance since the days of the Cold War. After all, the shuttle program emerged from the "space race," which was nothing less than a tit-for-tat, back and forth between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, with both countries vying for dominance in the last frontier.
The U.S. won that race, and the shuttle program proved it.
Once the program ended, there were questions as to what would happen with space: who would dominant it now? Which nation would occupy it?
Perhaps those questions were at least partially answered on Monday, when the NASA explorer Curiosity "blazed through the pink skies of Mars" and landed in the middle of a crater there. It was the seventh landing on Mars for the U.S. space program, and to accomplish it Curiosity had traveled through Mars' atmosphere at 13,0o0 mph. And the voyage to Mars took eight months and over 352 million miles.
Space race or not, these are the kinds of feats that demonstrate American ingenuity and American determination to the world all over again.