This week I have been privileged to do many things I never imagined I would actually do…especially as an adult. I walked on the moon, experienced temporary weightlessness, and performed a few deep space missions. Yet, one of my favorite moments of Space Camp was having the opportunity to listen to Ed Buckbee address our group. He gave us all a fantastic overview of NASA’s space program in the early years and specifically the “Real SpaceCowboys”. By the time he was done speaking I was ready to get back to school and inspire the next generation of much needed engineers, scientists, and leaders.
Buckbee told us a great many stories that we inspiring, amazing, humorous and just plain cool. The theme that came out the most in his stories was this notion of we were in this together. After JFK announced that we would be going to the moon, the entire country was behind this project. Even some of my fellow teachers who were living during this age remember the collective national passion behind the NASA programs in the early years. Everyone was behind the astronauts and the men that would eventually put them on the moon.
One of my favorite anecdotes Buckbee shared was when he talked about Wernher von Braun and how he would walk down the halls and tell people, “you are on the critical path”. He wanted everyone to know that they were part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone knew they were a part of the mission to put man into space regardless of what role they played. Another story was of Alan Shepard, one of the early astronauts, who was speaking to a technician working late at night on one of the launch rockets. Shepard asked the man if he knew how all the parts in the rocket worked. The man replied that he did not but said, “I’m gonna make my part work.” No one person knew how it all worked but they knew how to do their small part in making the whole work.
These men understood they were part of something much larger and greater then themselves. They were aware they played but a small role but each and every role served a purpose. The sheer complexity of putting a man in outer space is staggering when you think of the millions of pieces, parts and potential pitfalls and errors that were possible. However, all of these people were working together towards a common goal was powerful and the result was putting man in space.
I was going to attempt to make a connection to the classroom but will save that for another post. Listening to the stories of the space program and what these pioneers did was inspiring to me as a teacher and as an American. It is sad to think that in my lifetime I have only ever seen our country come together behind a common goal in response to national tragedies. I recognize it was another time period in American history but I hope to inspire my students to find something like these men did. I want them to be as passionate about something as the early men of NASA were. There is little doubt in my mind that when we are passionate about what we are doing and recognize our own roles amazing things can happen.