Hello Woburn, It has been a while, how are you? I hope the summer has been good for you. Most of us by now have heard about the Mars landing, it’s been all over the news. I have to admit that I have not seen many pictures yet, but I am beginning to find more and more out there. I have been looking back at the space program over the years and a lot of memories have come back to me.
A few years ago, I went to the Air and Space museum in Washington D.C. I was amazed at the displays there. Did you know that when Alan Shephard and not long after him, John Glenn pushed into space they traveled in a capsule made basically out of corrugated steel rolled into the shape of a capsule? The type of steel you would see used for a drainage pipe running under a roadway. Instantly every boy 5 and up wanted to be an Astronaut. To travel into earth’s orbit in a vehicle so simple certainly took courage and even more than that, a blind trust in believing in the future of the space program and its engineers and technicians. The undersides of the capsules are all black and singed from the heat generated during re- entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Imagine sitting in something the size of a Smart Car, traveling backwards at 30,000 miles per hour, re- entering earth’s atmosphere. You are sitting there knowing that a simple heat shield 6 inches from your head was all that was keeping you from instant incineration! You are looking out a little triangle shaped window at the flames shooting past you, your eyes wide in amazement and probably fear. That, in my way of thinking took courage and trust.
I remember sitting on the couch watching Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong land on the Moon. Walter Cronkite was commentating and the first pictures were grainy, but we were there! We all know the Words spoken as Neil stepped onto the surface of the moon, forever etched into history. Here’s a little known fact, when it came time to board the lander and leave the Moon, Buzz noticed that in their haste to get out onto the Moon that somehow the start switch got broken? The two men looked at each other and had to be wondering “what now?” I know I would have been thinking even darker thoughts.
So here they are sitting there with no way to start the lander to leave, going back and forth with Mission Control, when one of them comes up with a ball point pen. Aldrin noticed the tip would fit into the broken switch, He stuck it in and pushed it up and they had ignition! So ingenuity and a ball point pen got the two men back to the orbiting Apollo craft overhead. And also, President Nixon had two speeches ready to go. One was to congratulate the accomplishment, which we all heard, and the other was a condolence speech just in case they didn’t make it back. And now 44 years later we have journeyed to Mars! What an incredible feat. The Images that await will be fantastic. Someday they say we will send people there. It will have to be a special kind of person, someone who could stand at least a 20 month journey away from home in tight quarters. It takes 9 months to get there, and maybe they will spend two months exploring, then 9 months to get back. It will be quite an accomplishment to complete such a journey. How do you think the world will react if they find some signs of life up there? I mean how would we react if say a form of flower is found, as compared to the reaction if strange footprints were found? I think the reactions would be very different for each discovery. Flowers would be kind of a mild discovery I think. But strange footprints? The thought that SOMETHING other than us is out there and living relatively close to us could be unsettling. I wonder how we would react to the discovery. Of course the President decimated NASA, but yet here he was on TV congratulating the engineers and designers for the accomplishment. I mean, here we are thumbing a ride to the International Space Station, because we no longer have a way to get there, and here he is praising NASA’S newest achievement! That doesn’t make sense does it? True, the space program has had its share of disaster and loss, and great expense. Starting with Apollo1, when we lost 3 astronauts in a test capsule in a laboratory. And the loss of the Challenger and Discovery and how NASA was at fault and overlooked critical issues just to get a launch off; or in the Discovery case, to complete the mission. But there have been many successes also. Remember Apollo 13? NASA was able to get 3 men home after an explosion blew out the side of the orbiter. I remember watching every moment of it, and I remember how worried everyone everywhere was.
My best friend and I have had the same argument for 35 years now. He is in the camp that believes we have been visited by Alien life forms and that UFO’S regularly enter our airspace, I am in the camp that believes there is nothing out there but stars and dust. I truly think we were just a freak occurrence, a 1 in 10 billion of a shot that everything came together to form life. Hopefully soon we will know. IF there is life, I will enjoy the look of satisfaction on his face even though it proves me wrong, somehow I think he will enjoy the look on my face just as much. We are both anxious to see the outcome.
The Moon journeys were exciting, watching them explore and drive around on that wild lunar version of a car. But this trip to Mars, and hopefully subsequent trips to follow will be far more exciting. The possibilities of discovery to me is exciting! I hope it renews that old love of the space program. I hope we get that old feeling back, that feeling of we can do anything. That feeling that we are on the verge of something great. And who knows? We may just discover some new neighbors in our universe. But if we do not discover anything, there is plenty of room in my camp for a few more campers! Peace………..