There is a certain fearless foolishness inherent in the act of pioneering, the faith that you are somehow cleverer, luckier, more divinely guided than the ones who came before you.
Before President John F. Kennedy made the decision to televise Shepard’s risky launch, America had suffered the morale-crushing failure at the Cuban Bayof Pigs with all 1300 soldiers either captured or killed. Knowing this, he gave the green light anyway.
And with this green light, Shepard’s rocket lit the sky red and launched America into the black and glittering frontier that has always captured humanity’s imagination. And with this green light, Shepard and Kennedy freed America
from weighty confines of Cold War Earth and let the country dream again.
Earlier this year, the family made the journey across the country to visit the Kennedy Space Center. It was a bitter sweet experience and not just because we missed the second-to-last space shuttle launch we’d hoped to witness. Truthfully, that was to be expected. If they can’t rearrange it for an ailing Senator, they are certainly not going to accommodate us!
No, it was more complicated than that.
Never in one day, have I gotten more goose bumps, more wondering tears at what amazing things humanity is capable of. And at the same time there was that deep sense of loss—for those who gave their lives, for the end of an era.
But the bitter part of the bitter sweet lay not in the exhibits and the shows, but in the attendance. In a completely subjective survey, it seemed that around a third or more of the people around us were from outside the U.S.Enough so that it was very
And it wasn’t a decline in tourism due to the economy. Universal Studios was packed with Americans the next day. So what was it? Have Americans gotten less hungry? Have they lost that pioneering arrogance, that fire that drives them toward something greater despite the risk? I’ve thought about it a lot and I’m just not sure.
But here’s one thought: Maybe Americans are just ready to let go of Daddy’s hand and toddle out there on their own. As NASA shuts down the shuttle program and moves more toward supporting commercial space efforts, we may see the answer to this question.
On this 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s Moon Speech, let me leave all you pioneers with its most famous quote: