The space shuttle Endeavour is off! At 8:56 EST this morning, the 19-year-old spacecraft began its final journey. Mark Kelly and crew are headed to an International Space Station where they will spend a total of 16 days conducting experiments and making repairs.
There’s no doubt that space travel has very real and tangible reasons behind it, such as the ones which prompted today’s takeoff. But there are also more abstract reasons which make space travel extremely important, particularly for our children. And commander Mark Kelly alluded to them just moments before takeoff with this incredibly poignant quote:
(Space.com has a great writeup on this morning’s launch which prominently features the quote)
“As Americans, we endeavor to build a better life than the generation before and we endeavor to be a united nation. In these efforts we are often tested. It is in the DNA of our great country to reach for the stars and explore. We must not stop.”
Kelly, of course, speaks from personal experience as he and his family have recently been tested by the Arizona shootings which left his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, critically injured. Throughout this “test,” the nation watched as Kelly put his job on hold and tended to his wife. A few weeks later the astronaut answered the million dollar question: Kelly would, indeed, be aboard the space shuttle Endeavour when it took off for the last time.
Which means that despite being tested by tragedy, Kelly still refuses to stop in his efforts to build a better life, to build a better and more united nation. Children could learn much from these words, as space travel serves as a wonderful metaphor on so many levels. Our children need to understand that, quite literally, the sky is the limit. And, of course, that the sky is limitless. Whatever it is they want to do, they can. There are no boundaries to what they can accomplish. As will we all, they will encounter plenty of challenges along the way, but those challenges should never prevent our children from striving to accomplish whatever it is that they hope to accomplish.
I hope today’s launch will encourage them to dream big and to set goals. To stay focused on such goals. And, no matter what, to never give up on those goals. They can be attained. No matter the odds.
The triplets are probably too young to fully grasp any of that. But my daughter’s not. And thanks to the internet and NASA TV, I’ll have the opportunity to show her the launch later today. I’ll have the chance to share Kelly’s wonderful quote with her. I’ll have the chance to tell her the practical reasons behind the launch.
And, I’ll have the chance to tell her some of the metaphorical reasons behind it as well.
Space travel is an incredibly cool thing. It represents the very best we are as a nation. It represents the very best who we are as human beings. If kids are tuned in, they’ll pick up on all that. And kids’ interest in space will once again take off!
Get up to the minute news with what’s happening onboard by tuning in to NASA TV.
Did you watch the launch today? Did your kids?
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