To Infinity and Beyond…

Within weeks of one another, we lost two heroes of space history: Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong.  One inspired millions of girls to think of themselves as explorers; the other dared to be the first of all mankind to step foot on soil other than earth.  While we will miss them here on earth, they will forever be a part of the dust of stars.

Sally Ride during a crew mission testMuch has been said about these two great adventurers, and I’ve hesitated writing something about them because I don’t know what I could add that others haven’t said already.  But it’s a time to reflect on what both Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong accomplished, along with where they helped us all be.  Most of us are saddened by their loss, not because we knew them personally, but because they represented something to us.  But like us, they were fragile human beings, subject to the same things we all worry about every day—paying the bills, taking care of those we love, and facing the fears of their own humanity and limitations.  At the end of their lives, Sally Ride suffered from pancreatic cancer and Neil Armstrong was recovering from heart surgery.  Here are two heroes who went where most of us will only dream, but yet also lived extraordinarily normal lives in many ways, too.

Today is not a day to focus on their frailty, but on their triumphs and their influences after life in space.  After landing on the moon, Neil Armstrong never liked being referred to as an astronaut; he always preferred being thought of as the pilot he was before becoming an astronaut and afterwards as well.  Sally Ride was a professor at USC and founded “Sally Ride Science,” a hugely successful science education program that worked to pull young girls into science and engineering.  “Sally Ride Science” has been a partner with NASA, bringing the MoonKam program to students and classrooms (Students help select locations on the moon that two moon-orbiting satellites take pictures of.  Students plot the locations and times, then receive those photos to study.   Check it out at:

https://moonkam.ucsd.edu/.

I leave you with a video NASA made about Neil Armstrong: (notice the portion when he’s first stepping on the moon–no one had any idea what the surface would be like…would he sink through?  Could he get back up into the module?  These are the things great science fiction stories are made of, yet it’s anything but fiction).

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=151104091

And another video clip of Sally Ride, who talks about being the first American woman in space (like Armstrong, she was fairly reclusive and cherished her right to privacy.  Interviews of both Armstrong and Ride are few and far between):

Dream big dreams, Sally and Neil.  You sure helped us do just that.

 

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~ by alanotte on August 27, 2012.

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