I was already thinking about outer space while I drove home Friday afternoon, the 13th, remembering the brave astronauts of Apollo 13 who came so close to walking on the moon 42 years ago. I flipped through the radio stations, pausing on NPR when I realized the chatter on NPR Talk of the Nation was no ordinary interview — the host was talking to two NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Despite being about the worst science student you could imagine, I’m unapologetically sentimental about the space program. My generation saw the shuttle program celebrate immense success and indescribable tragedy. We did school reports on NASA missions, and enterprising teachers reared on Apollo missions built “space camps” in their classrooms. My sister and I zoomed our small plastic models of the space shuttles around the backyard.
How far we’ve come in half a century, when the lunar landing amazed my grandpa and inspired him to write this poem, “Footprints on the Moon.” It’s a wonderful thing that I can turn on the radio and hear the voices of astronauts as clearly as if they were in the car next to me, but I worry we take it for granted. I was choked up last year watching the final launch of Atlantis, wondering if anything so astonishing will inspire the next generation. The astronaut being interviewed on the radio Friday said the view from space never gets old. I hope we remember that.