This week I had 4 different thoughts that I wanted to discuss and couldn’t decide which one to choose, but then realized that they were actually all connected. The connection actually lies in the title of a movie that my family experienced early in the week. “The Human Experience” is the “story of a band of brothers who travel the world in search of the answers to the burning questions: “Who am I” Who is Man: Why do we search for meaning?” In their travels they live with the homeless in New York City, visit the lost children of Peru and the lepers in Ghana, Africa. Watching it our family couldn’t help but be amazed by the incredible human spirit that thrives even in the toughest of situations. Over and over again the message was reiterated how the full spectrum of human experiences is what unites us and lifts us up. Stories of strength and hope in the most adverse conditions remind us of the depth of the human spirit.
Then a friend of mine shared with me Neil deGrasse Tyson’s, “What NASA means to America’s Future” speech at the University of Buffalo. During his speech Dr. Tyson, stated that “NASA is a force of nature like no other” and that “NASA can dream about tomorrow” and we “need someone to keep the flame going.” I like that. A force of nature that carries dreams forward. It is not just the dream of those that work in the agency but it carries the unfettered dreams of a nation and the world.
And as President Obama stated at his speech at the Kennedy Space Center, “Now, little more than 40 years ago, astronauts descended the nine-rung ladder of the lunar module called Eagle, … It wasn’t just the greatest achievement in NASA’s history — it was one of the greatest achievements in human history. And the question for us now is whether that was the beginning of something or the end of something. I choose to believe it was only the beginning.” It doesn’t matter which camp you are on whether NASA should provide access to Low Earth Orbit or transition that to the commercial providers because at the end of the day I believe we all agree that NASA has always been and will always be here for the benefit of all humanity. So I believe the focus of our conversations should move from how do we get to space to how do we add to the human experience? What can we do to benefit all of humanity?
Or better yet, why not tackle the challenge posed by the former Director of DARPA, Dr. Tony Tether, at the recent JSC Innovation 2010 event. (A great event that I will share in my next blog.) After his presentation he was asked what he thinks should be the mission or rallying cry to focus NASA’s innovation? His answer was priceless and so to paraphrase his response,
“When NASA first went to the moon, we all wanted to go. Forty years later we still ALL want to go. NASA has forgotten that we all want to go. If it can remember that fact, then there is nothing that can stop it from achieving the impossible.” It is the human experience … we all want to go. It is the pushing forward against impossible odds that lifts the human condition. So how do we lift the human experience beyond the boundaries of this Earth AND lift the human condition back on Earth? That is a “noble purpose” worth talking about.
Sharing the Vision,
Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office