It should go without saying that, as an aerospace engineer, spaceflight has been something that has been on the forefront of my mind for as long as I can remember. The wonder of it all has always enamored me. The intricate machines. The ridiculous designs. The gall and fear that the astronauts exhibit. Manned spaceflight is truly one of the few wonders of the modern world.
To believe that we, as a species, are capable of strapping a group of men atop a machine with more than two million moving parts safely is frankly unbelievable. These men and women ride the largest and most powerful machines ever devised, with no guarantee of their safety, to travel into the unknown. They push themselves to the limit and take unfathomable risks in the name of science and adventure.
Of everything that we as a species celebrate, this should be near the top of the list. We gather by the millions to ring in the new year, to witness a sports championship, and to remind ourselves of our freedom. And yet, compared to the wonder of spaceflight, these events are mundane, and almost rudimentary. So why is that we don’t celebrate spaceflight with the same tenacity? Why do we view it as an everyday occurrence?
Now, the standard answers to these questions are “safety concerns” and “protocol”. But I think there’s a different answer. The common man and woman has no idea of what actually goes into putting men and women into space. Of pushing three men in a capsule the size of a college dorm room to 25,000 miles per hour. Of sending those three men more than a quarter of a million miles away, and bringing them back safely. Of putting a vehicle that spans a city block into orbit around our planet.
I’ve always dreamed that spaceflight would be such a joyous and momentous occasion for an entire nation, maybe even an entire planet, to celebrate. But as Arthur C. Clarke so eloquently stated, “any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. And unfortunately, as a species, we tend to dismiss that magic and take it for granted. So until then, I’ll keep dreaming.