Day by Day



29 January 2007

Ad Astra Per Aspera...


On January 27, 1967, three astronauts lost their lives in Apollo 1. That tragedy was one of the enablers for the United States to reach the moon just two years later.


I am a space geek.


I grew up in Florida. Born in the mid-60s, I was mesmerized by each and every launch from Cape Canaveral / Kennedy. The Apollo, Skylab and other missions manned and unmanned held me in thrall as only child hero worship could. I wrote letters to my hero, then LCDR Alan B. Shepard, commander of Apollo 14.



I wrote letters to NASA with detailed plans for moonbases, space stations and ships. They were wondefully supportive. I still have all the letters they wrote back. I watched Stoway to the Moon and wondered if I could ever get aboard a NASA mission. My sacred temple was the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. I watched Skylab II lift off from Kennedy.



I lept out of my Saturday MBA class in February 2003, when notified that Columbia had disintegrated over Texas. I sat anxiously with the alert OPS officer as he tried to determine is Navy MARPAT aircraft would be necessary for the search.


There would be no rescue.



As a boy, I would receive the flan brown government envelopes with a delight only exceeded at Christmas. Inside was always an official letter, signed with a few glossy prints of rockets and the earth. It was a kid's dream come true. I wanted to become an astronaut very badly, still do. Part of the draw of military service as a kid was the higher likelihood of getting into space.




I now know a few astronauts personally, including a high altitude pilot for NASA. In addition to a love of science and adventure, they also seem to hold a core of wonder at the amazing potential that is the universe. And I am not simply waxing poetic, almost all our major technologies have arisen from the efforts (post WWII) to get into space. Our cars are linked by satellite radio, our cell phones use GPS to aid rescuers in finding us on remote wildernesses. Satellites have been used to uncover ancient Mayan cities, long lost to the jungles of the Yucatan .





I even left the Libertarian party when I realized that they opposed government space exploration.




Most of my philosophy has been shaped by my interest in space. I recall watching Cosmos faithfully as a high schooler, even to the alteration of the school play rehearsal schedule. I am sure Gary Anello is still fuming that I conned him into that agreement!





I became a skeptic at heart. Sagan's seminal work, Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, which I read in Norfolk in the early 1990s, cemented my doubtful nature. I consider my mind open, though not so much that my brains fall out!



Space groupie, that is me. I am still drawn to the high frontier and the promise it offers humanity. Limitless enegy from SOLSATs, the propsect for new medicines, whole planets rich in resources and space for mankind, and of course, the potential for extraterrestrial life.


I hold out a lot of hope for our planet. I have an overwhelming faith in science and technology. Applied well, it provides boons and benefits unimaginable.

Left fallow, it deprives our species of its best chance for survival.

7 comments:

Scootmaroo said...

This reminds me of what I believe is the most underrated film of the past 25, the brilliant, moving, epic THE RIGHT STUFF, which turns the astronauts of the Mercury Program into mythological heroes.It never ceases to make me weep at the end. Indeed, I believe that in many ways astronauts are the last true American heroes in the classical tradition.

Citizen Deux said...

I loved that movie. The humanity and the pure bravery displayed there were awe inspiring. I think every single middle school student should see that movie.

Better still, a follow-up with folks like Ron McNair, Christie McAuliffe and other more current astronauts should be produced. We need to get our kids as interested in science as they are in MySpace.

sonicfrog said...

Yeah, me too!

Latest scape news - Hubble telescope may be dead! Now, instead of waisting money keeping the outdated space Chevy Vega alive, maybe we can spend money on a better space telescope; a series of space based radio interferrometer telescopes maybe.

PS, The space shuttle is a 4-6-8 cylinder 78 El Dorado!

Scootmaroo said...

The space shuttle is a 4-6-8 cylinder 78 El Dorado!

Isn't that being a little kind, in terms of classic design and automobile lines? The El Dorado was a bit like my 78 Bel Aire-large, streamlined, and a bit grandiose for it's own good. A Cadillac for the budget minded, as it were. No, the shuttle is more like a 70's Volvo Wagon. Boxy, but practical and usually reliable. And, Oh, the Mileage!

Major John said...

I remember worrying that Skylab would fall on my house...

Oh, and I watched "Cosmos" too.

Citizen Deux said...

Do you remember the panic about Skylab falling? Sheesh!

sonicfrog said...

"scape" news - eh!