hugh anthony, certified lifestyle speaker · author · lifestyle coach
“History has shown that many of the innovations that we have come to take for granted were a result of entrepreneurs, pioneers and early adopters willing to invest their own money, and sometimes lives, in a big idea.”
Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic.
The Discovery space shuttle orbiter made its final takeoff and landing, piggybacking on the jumbo Boeing 747, NASA’s Pluto 905, making its way to its new home, the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Centre in the Washington DC area. The gleanings from the media coverage, the images of the flyover in Washington DC and the final moments as it landed reflected mixed emotions. I reflected on the dreams of a generation and of a great era for Discovery‘, the shuttle orbiter that ‘led the pack’ with the most missions into space and is now at the end of a great run.
Growing up and hearing about the iconic Apollo 11 misson, and Neil Armstrong being the first man to walk on the moon was very fascinating. With such fascination and interest in human space exploration, my eyes were glued to the TV when there was a space shuttle launch, a delayed launch, disaster or a safe return to earth. Having witnessed the triumphs, difficulties and tragedies, they are all experiences that have contributed to innovation and advancement in science and technology. Discovery like many other space shuttle orbiters have contributed immensely to the creation of a reservoir of innovative technology and understanding in science (earth and space), medical and technological advancements.
Discovery, as well as the other space shuttle orbiters, enveloped the dreams, aspirations, inspiration and fulfilment for a generation directly and indirectly. I recall a lecture by Dr. Mae Jemison’s (first black woman in space) 14 years ago at an anniversary lecture in Jamaica, and her dreams as a child growing up and the inspiration shared. More vividly, my sister’s recount of the excitement of having Dr. Ronald Ervin McNair (1950-1986) the first black man in space who visited her high school and the sadness that greeted us with the news of his death in the Challenger disaster of 1986. Reflectively, those moments and now have contributed to self-fulfillment, actualization or personal successes, not just for those who shared with us, but for generations of individuals, whose fascinations were kept alive, vicariously through the space shuttle events. Discovery provided the satisfaction and feeling that aroused with the accomplishment of those individuals’ dreams, goals and expectations. Here are thoughts from an innovative generation, shared from NASA’s Blog through the eyes of those who worked with the space shuttle programmes:
“I realized that I wanted to work on the Space Shuttle Program as a junior in high school, while sitting in a Physics class. My teacher was a semi-finalist for the Teacher in Space Project and his enthusiasm was contagious……It took nearly 21 years, but my goal of working on the Space Shuttle Program was finally realized in January of 2007. I have had the privilege of contributing to the safe launch and performance of the final six flights of Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis; 18 flights in total. It has been an honor to work on these tremendous vehicles and with the dedicated teams that kept them flying safely.”
Becky Crownover, Jacobs Engineering Group
“It’s been a great feeling to be part of the space shuttle team. A funny thing happened on the voyage, they, the shuttle team, became my family. We have dreamed big, ventured on wild seas, lost sight of the land a few times and found stars to guide us on our journey. We expanded our horizons and learned lessons. I can truly say I was blessed by our Creator to be part of the greatest human adventure of all time.”
Tom Milner, Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Project Office
“What an awesome experience! Working in the Space Shuttle Program gave me a dream to live. It involved me in one of humanity’s great achievements, and I got to work alongside some of the greatest minds of all time. It taught me more than I thought possible. I made great friends. Over the years the shuttle gave me, my loved ones and the world a sense of exhilaration, connection, despair and triumph. The adventure has only begun. The Space Shuttle Program personifies what a great people can do, and provides a glimpse of the greatness that lies ahead.”
Michael Mitchell, Propulsion Systems Engineering and Integration Office
My thoughts are, for a generation that lived and experienced not just an American innovation, but also the confluence of innovative collaborations in science, aerospace technology, human space exploration and innovation, what’s next?
The global community is experiencing innovation and creativity at an even more rapid pace than ever before. Our world still has miles to go in every field of endeavour, more so now than ever. Given the realms of scientific research garnered, and to explore the potential and capabilities these discoveries hold for humankind. We now have over 30 years of valuable information from the first space shuttle launch of 1981 to build on. There is still so much to discover, to create, to learn, to share, to cultivate, to innovate and to enhance our lives. What are the possibilities…endless of course!!
Similarly, over three decades ago, the space shuttle era inspired us to dream even bigger, it created a community of believers, gave us a culture that fostered a spirit of discovery and innovation, new techniques and ways of seeing, doing and pursuing things. Having experienced it all, do we now have even bigger dreams as an innovative generation, given the possibilities that lie ahead?
We have an opportunity to inspire innovation around us, in every field of endeavour be it the hard or soft sciences, businesses and in our communities. We may not have the foggiest idea what that will be, however needs and demands are all around us to be met, and its for us to find solutions. However, we collectively must invest in our people and future generations to foster that spirit of innovation and ‘why not’ as team members of private, public and non-government enterprises and institutions, and as citizens. There is power in our dreams, potential and capacities to rapidly transform our capabilities, building on our dreams or that idea ‘collaboratively’ or ‘collectively’ of the generation before us and making better what we have learnt.
“People are the quintessential element in all technology… Once we recognize the inescapable human nexus of all technology our attitude toward the reliability problem is fundamentally changed.”
NASA Video – Shuttle Discovery Makes Final Flight over the US : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_IfoCUHyeo.
© 2012 Hugh Anthony. All rights reserved.