Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The greatest adventure of them all

When I was a kid growing up, a big part of what was going on when I became aware of the world around me was the space program.

To me, it seemed like this great, wonderful TV show that had everything a little boy loved: big rockets, heroic men (not enough women, though some made major contributions and only now are being recognized), very limited TV coverage that made every mission into a big deal, and a feeling that you could be into technology (hey, it was high-tech then, kids) and be cool.

I remember a party at my friend John Komendowski’s house across the street on 80th Street where there were several centerpieces that were paper-folded versions of the lunar module. (One kid at the party stole one, I recall, and John wanted to know who knew what.)

Because “current events” wasn’t really talked about much in school (we were mired in the history of 15th-century martyrs; I went to Catholic school), you had to go beyond school to learn about what was happening. I still remember a book I got from the Our Lady of Hope School library titled “Rockets and Spacecraft of the World.”

Way beyond New York City, I learned, there was a big world and I needed to learn about it, and there were these amazing people doing amazing things.

Sadly, my science education was so lacking. Today, the buzzword in schools is STEM, but I fear that as in my days in school, it’s just an acronym for school administrators to advance their careers. Despite my immediate supervisor’s efforts, in December 2017, I did a story on the Manatee County Library (my paper doesn’t cover the library anymore, as part of our focus on local news) and how it was lending telescopes and binoculars thanks to a program from the Library Foundation.

The library offers all sorts of stuff for teenagers, including Area 52, where it definitely isn’t your grandparents’ library. They can work on robotics, animation and computer technology. I remember one person at the library telling me about a kid from Mexico whose first language was an Indian language no one else knew. But he quickly picked up on the technology and started making drawings, then shooting them with a digital camera, then putting them together for a humorous animated cartoon.

Today, the people who are working for NASA and SpaceX and Blue Origin and those other space efforts look back at the space missions of the 1960s and 1970s, and see inspiration for what they are doing. We will go back to the Moon, to Mars and beyond. Just the other day, the Japanese space agency landed a probe on an asteroid, and it will return a sample to Earth.

In the works are sample return missions to Mars, boosters for new human missions to the Moon and right now little kids of around 10 or 11 are watching YouTube videos, and maybe seeing rockets like the Falcon and the Falcon Heavy, and wondering if that’s their future. Just as I saw the mighty Saturn V and wondered if my future was somewhere in there.

Someone once told me that she thought “Apollo 13” was just a movie and didn’t know that mission and its accident really happened. But there’s a cure for now knowing, and I’ve taken it for years. It’s called going out there on your own and seeking knowledge.

In his famous speech at Rice University in Houston in September 1962, President John F. Kennedy said:

“Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it — we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”

I know a lot of people who today are eager to retreat and be ignorant, and wallow in useless arguments and patriotic jingoism. I know the folks who think I’m a moron, a dope, an idiot and more, and you all should know that you’ll be dealt with in due time.

Go ahead, brag about how ignorant you are, how you haven’t read a book or newspaper in 20 years, or how educated people like me are really idiots in disguise.

The space program freed me from the limitations imposed on me by my teachers, parents, siblings and others, and I still dream about doing great things, though my best years are probably behind me. Still, just as those who dreamed of reaching the Moon and beyond never gave up, I will never give up.

Face it, people. You can’t break me. So stop trying. I will achieve.

I remember when I was in the post office and so many people told me to quit college and just give up, admit defeat and be a postal drone. You all were wrong then, and you’re wrong now. And I have a long memory.

On Friday, I will be seeing a movie about a man who never gave up. He led the first manned landing on the moon and opened up the doors to the future.

I, for one, take my inspiration from that “First Man.”

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October 9, 2018 Posted by | Living in the modern age, Observations with Vinny | , , , , | Leave a comment