Posts Tagged‘astronaut’

Apollo, 40 Years On.

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We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.

– John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President of the United States of America

40 years ago, on this very day, this very hour, this very minute Neil Armstrong stepped out of the Lunar Lander “Eagle” and began his decent onto the surface of our closest neighbour in space, the Moon. Today the world remembers what an amazing achievement that this was, and how the whole world watched in awe as we saw for the very first time the human race had landed on another celestial body. Truly it was something that no one who saw it would ever forget.

For me the greatness of the achievements of Apollo are embodied in the two things that prefaced this post. The first is a picture of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong. A simple picture showing an astronaut against the magnificent desolation that is the surface of the moon. It’s always the first picture I think of when I’m talking about the Apollo missions, summing up their essence with such simplicity. The second is a quote that I’m sure everyone around the world is familiar with. John F. Kennedy was an exceptional man and his speech served to inspire his nation and drive them towards a goal that no nation has matched to this day.

As a man who was not even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes at the time of this event I can only imagine what the event must have been like. I’ve watched hours upon hours of footage of the moon landings with a tearful eye but I know nothing can compare to what everyone must have experienced on that day. My only hope is that this blog and my endeavours outside it will lead humanity to achieve such greatness again.

Today I pay tribute to all of those who made Apollo possible. From the ground crew to the politicians to great people such as Walter Cronkite who helped bring the missions home to everyone around the world. I would also like to leave you with an assortment of other tributes to the achievements of the Apollo program, something to keep you busy during this day of celebration.

Happy 40th Apollo. In 10 years time I hope we’ll be celebrating your 50th in true style, back on Luna.

Becoming an Astronaut.

For a good part of my adult life I always thought my future would lie in the realms of IT and computer hardware. I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember and a hardware enthusiast ever since I was able to earn enough money to buy my own computer. About 2 years ago though I discovered my passion for aeronautics, which after a very short time led me to find my love for space and all things aeronautical. At first I was surprised by this path that I followed, until I delved into the realms of space further.

Back in the hay days of space everything was uncharted territory. The first artificial satellite of earth, Sputnik 1, was launched upon what basically amounted to a retrofitted ICBM and most of the early days hardware for NASA’s missions were also re-purposed military hardware. It was only during the Apollo era that NASA started developing rockets purely for space, although they did continue to source other things directly from the military.

Pilots and mission specialists alike have been chosen mostly from the Air Forces. Initially this was due to the pilots’ skill with experimental craft, which is what all of the space craft were classified as at the time (with good reason!). More recently however we’ve seen more and more crew of current space missions being picked from the ranks of civilian staff, such as the crew of the last space shuttle mission which included only 3 military/ex-military personnel with the rest being picked from either the Educator in Space program or from NASA’s direct recruiting schemes.

Unfortunately for someone like me the ranks of NASA are probably a little far off. My technical expertise doesn’t really lend itself to the skill set required  to make it as a mission specialist (unless they start hosting Windows servers up there!), although if they ever want to get an Australian into the educator program I’d definitely be the first in line. There are other opportunities for me to become an astronaut however.

Private space flight companies are begining to pop up all over the place with the most advanced out of the lot being Virgin Galactic. The pilots of the first craft, SpaceShipOne, are primarily from civilian ranks with one exception, Brian Binnie who happens to share a similar heritage to that of the first astronauts in military test piloting. It is within these ranks that I intend to find my way into space. Whilst the market only barely exists at this point in time for people who wish to fly others into space I believe that by the time I’m ready to undergo training in piloting such an aircraft there will be a healthy niche market established, allowing me to fulfill my dreams of flying myself and others into space.

But what will I do with myself until then? Of course there is only one answer, follow in the footsteps of those who came before me. Over the next couple years I will be undergoing certification for my Commercial Pilot’s License, which in turn will lead me to piloting all sorts of aircraft. By the time I’m done with this I’m hoping Virgin Galactic will be looking to be recruiting, and there I’ll be.

It is that thought alone that will keep me going through any challenge that I may face.