Today was a huge day. Not because of the economic reports, the boom on the stock market, the new Terminator trailer or the new Nebraska Football Head Coach. No, today is a huge day because the U.S.A. got back into the business of space travel. A few years ago when the space shuttle program was retired, it seemed like the U.S.A. was out of the space travel business for good. The Chinese, Europeans, Russians and private entrepreneurs were the only ones going to space now, not the government I love and support financially. Thankfully, since then those organizations have each made huge strides in modern spaceflight, and NASA did the same by focusing on the Orion project. Operating on a thin budget, the amazing scientists, engineers and managers at NASA worked tirelessly, very likely without any support outside of their own walls, to ensure that the U.S. continued to strive towards what’s next: traveling within our solar system. They sent rovers and probes to Mars and discovered amazing things. They found water on the moon. They showed us the surface of Titan and peaked back at Earth through the rings of Saturn. And, then they modernized space exploration.
I’m so proud of NASA I can’t see straight. So much talent, vision, dedication and intelligence bottled into one place. It’s an embodiment, in so many ways, of all the things this country can accomplish if we as individuals strive to achieve greater than what came before, and we as a country and society choose to support their efforts. Today I saw a great feat of engineering, of know-how, of science and technology. Yes, we’ve done much of this before with Apollo and the space shuttles. But look at what we can do now.
Today I watched the launch and the mission from my iPad and my personal computer. I got live updates from the educational video feed directly from Mission Control. My Twitter feed was packed with updates as Orion made its way across the heavens. I felt like I was a part of the mission, an observer and cheerleader, with the same passion and excitement that I feel at any Husker football game. I cheered as the booster rocket propelled Orion deeper into space than man has been in almost 40 years while my son ate his oatmeal at the kitchen table. I whooped at work when I saw Orion nestled in the ocean waves, home safe. I can only imagine that Walter Cronkite would be crying tears of joy today at NASA’s achievement and the media that allowed him, me and the whole world to share the moment with NASA.
With today’s successful test, the moon and Mars are that much closer to our reach. I’m confident within my lifetime I will see the first humans touch the surface of Mars. I will die knowing that mankind will not be shackled to this island and its dwindling resources. That the spirit of mankind looks up to the sky and doesn’t see a prison, but sees the limitless potential of adventure. Tonight I’ll look up at the stars and wish I was as smart and capable as the folks at NASA, the ESA, the CNSA, Roscosmos, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences. Those brilliant human beings, who don’t see limits or challenges that cannot be conquered, they are the ones that will take mankind to the stars and beyond. They will save our species when our planet can no longer support us. They will inspire the young and the old that there is nothing beyond our reach, no obstacle we can’t overcome, no dream we cannot make real through education, hard work, persistence, dedication and greatness.
I tip my hat to everyone who worked on the Orion project. I give you a standing ovation for your achievement today and wish you luck on the next project. You have renewed my love for space travel because you have shown me that we can still achieve, we can still do it … and we’re going to do it.