The government’s Space Shuttle came to a premature stop tonight in Los Angeles, California. The gigantic rocket ship, part of a government program initiated by President Nixon that was always less inspiring than its predecessor, Apollo, blocked a major thoroughfare in the nation’s second largest city while a crowd of onlookers gawked and another crowd at the intended destination was repeatedly misinformed by government authorities about the arrival.

The spectacle is pathetic. The notion that a failed and shuttered government program – that lost nearly half of its fleet in earthbound crashes that could have killed thousands of people – would be celebrated in its demise as some sort of achievement is bad enough. As an admirer of manmade machines, looking at aircraft that no longer fly is a slightly sad spectacle to me, made easier to bear by the fact that the thing performed its function. Certainly there’s an argument that delivering payloads into space was a legitimate and productive goal. But the Space Shuttle program can hardly be considered a resounding success. The mixed-results, multi-billion dollar program coming to an end is causing more mixed results. It turns out that hauling a government space vehicle (named in a government school competition) through government-controlled streets to a government-sponsored museum is more complicated than government planners thought. Though they have cut down 400 trees, and also utility poles, traffic signals and street lights, the Shuttle Endeavour is literally stuck in the middle of L.A. at this writing.

The government’s failure to properly plan to move Endeavour, which was made with spare parts to replace the fallen Challenger, to the California Science Center has inconvenienced city residents for days with closed and disrupted infrastructure, routes and avenues, and the Shuttle shutdown potentially endangers the safety of thousands of people in Los Angeles. And to think that the left insists that society would fall apart without government controls. According to the Los Angeles Times, if and when Endeavour moves east on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on its final stretch, it will encounter more problems. A section of the street where tall pines were planted in honor of the slain civil rights leader will force Endeavour to zigzag to avoid the trees. Endeavour is running far behind schedule, the Times reports, and is estimated to reach its destination sometime on Sunday morning. That makes moving Endeavour an example of Big Government in action, reminding us of the enormous power the state has over our lives, controlling roads, museums, schools and rocket ships, which it can cut off and stop functioning like that. A $2 billion vehicle that was used 25 times for less than 20 years being stuck in the middle of an American city blocking traffic – being cheered by city residents – makes the government’s failure to finish its Endeavour the perfect snapshot of a civilization which, if the trend continues, will itself come to a grinding halt.