This week I’ve had the privilege to preview a new series that will debut on the Discovery Channel on Sunday, June 8th entitled When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (click here to read my review). The six part series traces the first fifty years of NASA’s missions to explore outer space.
While watching the series I was struck by how we no longer consider the exploration of space as something that is important for our country to invest in. It does not seem to hold the same interest for us as a nation as it did when I was a kid growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Perhaps that is because we don’t have bold leadership any longer in Washington.
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space by piloting his Mercury spacecraft on a twenty minute sub-orbital flight. A little less than three weeks later, President John F. Kennedy declares before a joint session of Congress that the United States will land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. At the time, many in the space program thought Kennedy was crazy to make such a suggestion. But as audacious as his boast may have been, he inspired thousands of individuals associated with the program to work harder to ensure that his goal was met.
President Kennedy said it best in another famous speech that he made about why we must explore space:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
We need a leader who is willing to challenge us to do hard things.