I’ve said before that the exploration of space reminds me of the Olympic torch relay. So here is a note to all you relay runners who carry the torch every day in your work; to those who have retired from the race, and to those who dream of carrying the fire one day.
Not everybody gets to carry the torch up the stadium steps and light the cauldron in the presence of tens of thousands and the virtual presence of tens of millions. Only a very few get to carry the torch in moments of glory.
Not everyone who carries the torch is remembered, only a few names are ever announced.
Not everybody gets to carry the torch over the mountain tops, just a handful get to carry the fire through magnificent vistas.
Not everybody gets to carry the torch where it is cheered on by adoring crowds.
Somebody has to carry the torch in the rain, somebody has to carry the torch through the valley, somebody has to carry the torch through the warehouse district and the swamp. Somebody even has to carry the torch in places where the onlookers jeer.
But the the torch has to be carried. If the flame is ever to reach its goal, if the cheering multitudes are ever to see the final runner holding the torch high, it must to be carried.
Space exploration is like that. Some days are glorious days, some days are awful, and most days can be tedious.
But if we stumble, and the torch falls, and the light goes out, then all the dreams and all the sweat of all of those who came before us will be for nought. And all the hopes for those who might have carried the torch after us will fade away in the night.
We don’t get to chose the section of the course we run. We just get to carry the torch.
Celebrate with those who carried the torch in glory days. Know that glory days will come again.
Don’t forget to hold it high, even in ordinary times, even in the presence of those who jeer.
Because those who carry the torch, carry the future in their hands.
Because even if you have to run through the desert and never hear the cheering throngs, you are still carrying the fire.
And how well you run your distance is the only reward that is truly worth having.