To infinity, and beyond

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine suggested on Saturday that the SpaceX launch carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, from US soil no less, would encourage kids to want to become ‘the next Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Richard Branson’. Jenny List, writing on Hackaday, felt something was amiss.

“I was slightly shocked and saddened to hear this from the NASA administrator, because to my mind the careers of Musk, Bezos, or Branson should not be the ones first brought to mind by a space launch. This isn’t a comment on those three in themselves; although they have many critics it is undeniable that they have each through their respective space companies brought much to the world of space flight. Instead it’s a comment on what a NASA administrator should be trying to inspire in kids.

Ask yourself how many billionaire masters-of-the-universe it takes for a successful space race compared to the number of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, technicians, physicists, et al. From the anecdote of the NASA administrator it takes about three, but if he is to make good on his goal of returning to the Moon in 2024 and then eventually taking humanity to Mars it will take a generation packed full of those other roles.”

I wasn’t born when Armstrong first stepped on the moon. But I’ve seen the video. I’d wager that the majority of humankind has seen that footage. And behind that walk was a technological feat like no other before it. In the July 21st, 1969 edition of the New York Times, Glenn Seaborg, then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, is quoted:

Even as a scientist who has spent a good deal of his life involved in large-scale technological projects, I find the moon landing an amazing scientific and engineering feat. It personally reinforces my feeling about the great power and potential of science and technology and my belief that through cooperation and concerted efforts man is capable of solving almost any problem, of meeting almost any challenge. I hope the moon landing will have such an uplifting effect on people all over the world and help united us toward meeting some of our goals here on earth.”

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