Early this morning I was wakened by the double sonic boom overhead Los Angeles, as the Discovery was coming in to land at Edwards Air Force Base. I immediately tuned in to watch the successful landing, with the nose-cone of the ship eerily lit up with the bright glow from the heat of entry visible only because of the darkness (I thought it was their landing light!). As a pilot myself, I could only marvel at the dead-stick landing, a one shot try.
Just now, I watched on my dedicated NASA channel as the crew sat down to field questions from the press, uninterrupted by commercials and “helpful” announcers. And that they had the willingness to share their thoughts and feelings before they could be expected to have gathered them, was spectacular.
Here are my reactions:
– The commander was this comely woman, Eileen Collins, married, two children, not pushy, modest and even humble, and obviously respected by her crew. A shock right there to many of the world’s population, but hopefully not to our children. Her incisive and personal reflections as she looked out the window at our earth were riveting. She’s sensational. What a spokesperson! What a role model!
– The other four crew members, equally articulate (two were not there, undergoing tests and de-briefing still), gave us their impressions too. The Japanese member caught my special attention, because at one point he spoke at length in his native language to his audience in Japan, and Miyuki interpreted for me. She was very proud that he was along.
– What I took away with me, listening to them, was that they were, as one, altered by the experience, viewing our common home as a single very vulnerable place being subjected to visible unfair strains, as they could see from the green to brown transformations between political territories, the man-made changes in coloration of the land and the oceans, and the upper layer of the atmosphere.
– When they finished, I found myself pondering that we need to be thinking of this space-vehicle as a tool for a sea change in all of our attitudes, our traditional and historic mindsets.
I believe the way to take advantage of this opportunity, with all possible speed, is to open up the training and crewing of astronauts to all members of the human race so that they may participate in the brotherhood of future space adventurers. It’s almost a responsibilty, and it falls to us to use it.
Of the necessary seven crew members, four should be U.S. citizens, but the other three should be conscripted from assorted qualified foreigners. And not just those from “friendly” countries – among those we have already brought in I can think of Japanese and Russians and Mexicans and Canadians and Brits – but we should also conscript from places we currently view as our enemies.
They would be carefully chosen representatives of course (we have our methods to make sure!) and they too will speak to their fellow-countrymen in ways that we cannot hope to. Chinese communists, Cubans, North Koreans, Afghans, and yes, Iranians and Iraqis. One and all should be welcome, and religious affiliation is unimportant.
Let all of our eyes be opened by the mutual sharing of these planetary trips into the final frontier, never before exploited in this way for this purpose. Perhaps others too will become transfigured and spread the word.