Today saw the start of the final voyage of the US Space Shuttle Atlantis. I was very young during the moon shots. Space and astronauts holds a special place in my imagination. Every boy in my Primary one class got a space suit for Christmas that year!
Three years ago Edinburgh hosted the annual Interplanetary Explorers gathering. I was privileged to shake three hands that had been in space. The first belonged to a Czech who was the first non American, Non Russian in space. The second belonged to a man that had been up in Challenger just before the disaster. The last belonged to one who was on the first flight after the Challenger disaster. What courage all of these men had but especially the latter.
My late father passed away 14 years ago today. He, like many of these men and women, was an air force pilot during his earlier life with a remarkable wartime record. Three weeks younger than John Glenn, the first astronaut to walk in space, he was told at the age of 28 he was too old to learn to fly jets and left the RAF to return to his previous career as a Civil Servant. I wonder if that very British, ultra cautious attitude to what is possible is why Britain waited until 1991 before Helen Sharman became the first British Astronaut.
Noting the evident risks why would any one choose to step into a giant tin can bolted to the end of a supped up firework? I will leave the explanation for that to the greatest of them all.
I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.Neil Armstrong