Friday, December 9, 2016

Space is not Just for Dreamers


John Glenn and Friendship 7
The passing of John Glenn at age 95 yesterday caused me to pause. The New York Times calls him an American Hero of the Space Age. He was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7--the first seven astronauts selected by NASA.

I remember growing up and following each successive barrier that was broken and each new achievement that was made during the Cold War Space Race. The pride of the country rode on the backs of a few brave men, yes they were all men then. 

Mercury 7 Astronauts
I learned new words like Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. I also learned about Redstones, and Saturns; the boosters that these brave barrier breakers rode into the heavens. 

My mind was on the space and space travel as I considered the possibilities. In my young mind, I believed that we would have missions to Mars during the 1990's. For a while I wanted to be an astronaut and ride the fire into the heavens.

The country chose to go another direction in space; developing the highly successful Space Shuttle program to haul payloads into low earth orbits. The dream of Mars remains. Sadly, the United States does not currently have the capability to launch people into space. There are no man-rated boosters or vehicles in the inventory and the cruel twist of fate is that we are dependent upon to Russians to carry Americans into orbit to the International Space Station. Many of our space launch vehicles rely upon Russian produced engines--the U.S. has lost the technological lead.

The space program provided something back then that our country lacks. We were dreamers and we set our sights on the stars. There were new horizons to conquer and the successes and the failures came almost every day. Life has become so routine since then. We still making stunning advances in space, but it has become the expectation.

Godspeed John Glenn!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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