President Obama once said that the shuttle program was so uninspiring the space shuttle missions scarcely qualified as news. He should have seen the half million people who came to see today’s launch. Reminds me of Yogi Berra’s famous words, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”
The Russians now own the space shuttle program and, with the program, they own one of the single greatest achievements of the United States and mankind – space travel. Barack Obama has given it away because he found it dull. Since 1960, when John F. Kennedy’s vision was realized, the United States has led in space. The space program, which relies on having a means of traveling into space (the shuttle), is the fulfillment of a dream. It is the embodiment of what people can do when they are free to dream and create.
Yuri Gagarin, a daring and gallant Russian, was the first man in space. Prior to that, the Russians sent monkeys into space, sending the animal rights people into space, figuratively. John Kennedy was not going to cede the lead in space to the Russians. At the time, there was a fear that Russians were going to establish bases in space from which they could launch bombs. It was also an adventure that JFK was not going to let escape the grasp of an exceptional nation. John F. Kennedy said, “We stand today on the edge of a new frontier – the frontier of the 1960’s – a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils – a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.” With those words, he defined a decade and he defined us.
I watched the most significant space missions on TV. Seeing the first man orbit the Earth, February 20, 1962, on a 12″ black and white TV, was a great privilege. Seeing our courageous astronaut, John Glenn, take off and orbit the Earth aboard Friendship 7 brought tears to my eyes. I was told you could see the ship with your naked eye as he passed overhead and I believe I saw it when I ran out at word that it was traveling over Flushing. I jumped up and down, and believe I watched a dot move in the sky a 100 miles overhead. John Glenn circled the globe three times. I can’t forget the breathless anticipation and worry I felt as a young child, waiting for communication from the spaceship. His heat shield was loose at one point which made re-entry potentially dangerous.
See John Glenn launch into space here:
While orbiting, on a flight which lasted less than five hours, John Glenn described a panorama of colors and brilliant and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. He said later, “Here on earth you see a sunrise, it’s golden, it’s orange…When you’re in space, and you’re coming around on a sunset or sunrise, where the light comes to you refracted through the earth’s atmosphere and back out into space, to the space craft that refraction has the same glowing color for all the colors of the spectrum . . . .”
The thrill of the successful orbits became a heart stopping concern until John Glenn landed. The feeling it gave me was that I too wanted to seek adventure and make a difference in my life. To emulate this hero’s courage was my goal. New York gave John Glenn a ticker tape parade. It was incredible. No words to describe it. They don’t give ticker tape parades for just anyone. My mother said it reminded her of the parade for Charles Lindbergh. My grandmother remembered no fanfare for the Wright brothers.
I deeply felt the words of John F. Kennedy, who said, “…But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?” – John F. Kennedy, 1962
Equally incredible was the moon landing on July 20, 1969. It was one of the most amazing events in my life and it was televised. I sat up through the night watching and listening to the men in the NASA control room and I shared their joy and fear. Mesmerized and breathless, I was one of millions who heard the words, “The Eagle has landed.” I listened in awe as I watched a grainy Neil Armstrong take the first step and say, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” I cried and was enveloped by hope.
Shortly – due to President Obama’s hope & change vision for NASA – the Russians will be the leaders of the space program and they will be the only people operating a manned spacecraft. If we want our astronauts in space, they will need to hitch a ride on the Russian shuttle at great expense to us. With the abandonment of the shuttle program, a dream is lost.
President Obama attended the aborted launch on the day of the Royal Wedding (he was not invited to the Royal Wedding). He was absent from today’s launch which I find curious. If he were as inspired as the people in attendance today, I suppose we might still have our space program. Instead of finding ways to make it inspiring as JFK did, he eliminated it. He is no JFK. Read about the delayed launch here: Politico, Obama Skips Launch Today’s launch, DailyBeast: shuttle-launch-endeavour-and-nasas-final-countdown