Reporter's Note: President Obama has voiced support for the space program, and that’s pretty important. Certainly more important than my campaign to send a letter a day to the White House, but hey…we each do our part to help connect across the cosmos.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
By the time you read this, we will have probably passed the precise instant (9:32 am, eastern) in which Apollo 11 blasted off forty years ago, shaking the ground like an earthquake, and signaling to the universe that life on this smallish blue planet would no longer be bound by gravity, atmosphere, or lack of imagination. Humankind would reach out into the heavens.
I was a kid living in Illinois at the time, and like much of the nation I spent hours glued to grainy black and white television pictures showing us that the impossible was happening. I still find it almost beyond comprehension that we built a craft capable of exploding off of the earth like a controlled atomic bomb, roaring up into the freezing and terrible vacuum of space, leaping from the immense gravity of earth into the comparatively puny pull of the moon, and then maneuvering ourselves down into that find gray dust, to step out like explorers of old and plant a flag to say “We are here!”
My grandmother, sitting on her porch swing in the buzzing heat of the Alabama summer, never really believed it was true. Like a sizable minority of Americans, she imagined it was an elaborate hoax by the government for some deceitful purpose which she could never fully explain, and I have never quite been able to unravel. As a child, when I raved about the wonders of space travel, I found it curious that she was so skeptical. But as an adult, as I consider the facts of her life, I guess it would have been odder if she had not arched an eyebrow and expressed doubt. She was born the same the year the Wright Brothers first rose a few trembling feet above our planet. To imagine that we would travel about a quarter million miles further up before she died, is indeed virtually incomprehensible.
I watched the shuttle launch a short while before I wrote this letter, and I was enchanted by the wonder of it, just as I always am. We do plenty of things as human beings that are not good. We make lots of mistakes. Sometimes we are painfully short-sighted and greedy too. But we are also capable of extraordinary, magnificent, and beautiful accomplishments; and the first moon shot will be forever among the best of those.
Long after you and I are forgotten, (and given enough time, we will be…even you with all your fame) the first moon missions will still be remembered. And what I think we, as Americans, should remember even now is that such greatness still lies within us. For all our fears and problems, we have dreamed some of the most spectacular dreams that man has ever known, and we’ve made them come true.
My grandmother doubted that America could produce such a miracle, even though she saw it. But the miraculous flight from here to the moon convinced her grandson, that there is nothing this country can not do if we bend our will, our minds, our hearts, and our goodness to the task.
Our problems are small compared to our promise.
Call if you get a moment.
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