One Step Forward, One Step Back

When NASA's space shuttle Atlantis lifts off on Friday, June 8, it will be carrying a 400-year-old metal cargo tag inscribed "Yames Towne." The tag was once attached to a British shipment that is believed to have arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, around 1611.

Also along for the ride will be gold and silver coins commemorating the Jamestown settlement. After their round trip to the International Space Station, the coins and shipping tag will become museum pieces. If all goes well, they won't look any different than when they left the ground.

NASA says the four-million-mile exercise "continues the legacy of exploration and discovery begun 400 years ago by America's earliest explorers." I say it continues the modern NASA legacy of going round and round without actually getting anywhere.

If we're going to spend $10,000 per pound on shipping, let's send items that actually advance our understanding and exploration of space. —Dawn Stover