In space

Richard R. Barron in 1969

My wife Abby and I watched the countdown and liftoff of Inspiration4 atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday evening, the first-ever all-civilian mission to Earth orbit.

I grew up watching the “space race,” and have some deeply-influential memories of sitting in class in first grade in November 1969, watching Apollo 12 fly to the moon.

Readers of a certain age knows what that looks like: a chunky black-and-white television is rolled into the classroom, held onto its three-tiered wheeled metal shelf by bungie cords or duct tape. “Rabbit ear” antennas poke toward the ceiling. The teacher periodically adjusts the antenna to clear up the signal.

I remember being absolutely stunned by the sight of the Apollo 12 Command and Service Module (CSM). That, I remember thinking, “This a rocket ship!”

Even the wealthiest schools couldn’t afford a video tape recorder in 1969. At that point in television history, video tape was in its infancy. We either watched it when it was on TV, or missed it.

Thus, I watch spacecraft launches when I can. They represent the smartest and most ambitious among us.

There are a lot different takes on the space programs, past and present; that it’s a waste of money, that it’s become too commercialized, that it’s dangerous. Certainly, those things are true to a degree.

My take on it is that the space programs have always served to inspire me. Every time we explore, we grow. I hope that later this year, NASA will finally launch it’s much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, which we all hope gives us more clarity into the nature of our universe.

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