Today's golden anniversary of the first American to orbit the Earth shows how high our nation has soared in space exploration and how much we have squandered.
A half century ago - after 10 delays - John Glenn blasted off into the history books circling the globe three times in his Friendship 7 space capsule before successfully splashing down.
It was a shining moment for the U.S. space program, which had been lagging behind its Russian counterparts.
Glenn's flight helped inspire a nation to achieve a goal President John F. Kennedy had announced nine months earlier - to send a man to the moon and bring him back safely before the end of the decade. Proudly, that goal was met.
Yet since then, our space initiatives have faltered amid shifting strategies and staggering costs. Our nation has given up the lead in space exploration so that today - 50 years after Glenn's flight - our nation doesn't even have a vehicle capable of putting a man in orbit. We have to thumb rides from the Russians to the International Space Station, a sad state for a former space leader.
Ideally, this anniversary would be a golden time to reawaken our nation's desire to re-establish our leadership in space exploration.
Sadly, it won't. The national vision has been absent for far too many administrations.
So now, we are Earth-bound and left little option but to try to re-live our glory days when the United States was a space pioneer, such as Glenn's historic flight.
It was a remarkable accomplishment then and a painful reminder today of what we have frittered away.