When I was growing up, I read constantly and some of my favorite books were science fiction — Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and many other authors were my escape to new worlds. I loved movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, was thrilled when Star Wars came out, and watched every episode of the original Star Trek so many times, I can tell you which episode it is after watching the first few seconds. However, it was NASA and our country’s efforts in space that truly captured my imagination — I was 4 years old when Neal Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. My father was in the Air Force, and was also a “space nut” – his excitement about every Apollo mission was infectious, but the Apollo 11 moon landing is one of my first memories of man in space, albeit a hazy one. Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and John Glenn were some of my first heroes.
I cheered nearly every launch of the space shuttle, and was thrilled that the first prototype was called “Enterprise.” I cried when Atlantis launched a little over a year ago — our last space shuttle which signaled a very uncertain future for NASA and America’s dominance in space. I am a firm believer that we should be supporting our efforts to explore space, the moon and other planets. Not only does it provide major technical innovations that boost our economy, but it leads to the kinds of ambition and dreams that encourage more children to study science, math and just to have big dreams. I ended up as a political scientist, but I still nurture dreams of space, and those dreams give me hope for the future and for my children. Neal Armstrong’s along with Sally Ride’s recent passing makes me sad, but it also makes me thankful that we had men and women like them who were willing to take risks, serve their country, and act as role models for the next generation who will hopefully have the resources and the desire to reach for the stars.
“When you visit countries that don’t nurture these kinds of ambitions, you can feel the absence of hope…people are reduced to worrying only about that day’s shelter or the next day’s meal. It’s a shame, even a tragedy, how many people do not get to think about the future. Technology coupled with wise leadership not only solves these problems but enables dreams of tomorrow.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson