Photo by Don Cohen
The launch of my creating a story for NASA began with a trip to Washington DC April 16 through April 20, 2008. I met at NASA headquarters with Ed Hoffman, Don Cohen, Jessica Fox and Ben Bruneau. Ed Hoffman is Appel Director (Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership). Don Cohen is managing editor of ASK Magazine, the in house NASA magazine. Jessica Fox works with narrative and film at NASA. Ben Bruneau is a Knowledge Sharing Analyst. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about what my story might be and what NASA sites I should visit. Ed Hoffman felt my story should be "a love letter to NASA".
In the meeting it was interesting to hear people's childhood dreams. Going to the moon, after all, has been a dream of mankind for thousands of years. Don Cohen said when he was six his parents took him to the movie Destination Moon, and from that moment he wanted to be the first man on the moon. Ed Hoffman told us when he finished graduate school he told his father there were no new frontiers to conquer. His father took him out to the yard, pointed to the stars and said, "It's all up there." Jessica Fox got interested in space when she was a little girl. Her father would tell her a story or just have Jessica ask questions about space. Jessica discovered if she could ask enough questions she could stay up late. Ben talked of the clarity of the stars in South Dakota. As we talked of dreams I wondered how important these dreams were in sending man to the moon.
Friday, May 15, we all met with Roger Launius, Curator of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Roger felt that exploration is something deep in the human psychic. He said, "It's inherently a good thing to climb the mountain to go over the hill." Roger said eight million people come to the museum each year and I wonder how many of the children who come dream about space at night. Will the next generation produce engineers and astronauts who want to go to Mars and beyond?
As Roger Launius took us around the museum, I asked if he'd like to go out into space. "In a heartbeat," Roger said ñ an adventurous man. Jessica Fox said the same thing. Jessica has the spirit that brought man to the moon. She's creative, playful and if she's an example of people who've recently finished college, then we'll not only get to Mars but we'll dance there.
I was amazed at how small the capsule was that John Glenn sat in as he went around the earth. The Lunar Module was the most intriguing object in the museum to me. It looked like a large tent built by some boy scouts with the help of a few hobos. It's like no other flying machine ever built. It took six or seven years to create it and it's a brilliant piece of engineering and design. As I looked at it I could imagine Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descending to the moon. The Lunar Module brought them down to the moon and safely back to the Command Module, a great engineering achievement.
On Sunday Jessica and I met with Joe Allen an astronaut who floated out in space held only by a tether. Joe Allen said that looking back everyone felt that Neil Armstrong was just the right man to be the commander of Apollo 11. Joe himself had dreamed of being a cowboy or a racecar driver. As an astronaut I think he did a lot better.
I left Washington pondering a number of questions. How much is out in the universe that we can't see? What's the likelihood of other life in the universe? What's the moon's relationship to the earth? Is the NASA story one of creation and birth? How important are dreams in the life? Do we accomplish anything without having a dream?