Let’s Celebrate Our Nation
The Fourth of July means flags and fireworks and there are many other things that remind us of our country’s greatness. I am particularly fond of remembering how our space program made us a leader among nations. Here are some of my thoughts and memories.
In the late 1950s our nation had to decide whether we wanted military supremacy in space or to use space for peaceful purposes. The Space Act of 1958 created NASA, a civilian agency, and gave it control over human spaceflight. It was to be used “for the benefit of all mankind.”
When in 1961, a Russian, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in space, the United States was mobilized to catch up in what was called “The Space Race”. The Cold War had begun and the Soviets began building powerful nuclear weapons. The US thought that Russia might put nuclear weapons in orbit.
In this timeframe, John Glenn was assigned to be America’s first man to orbit the Earth. He projected confidence but was very aware that he might become the first man to die in space. He even left a recording to be played for his teenage children if he failed to make it back alive. Luckily, on February 20, 1962, he thrilled us all – me included! –when his capsule, named Friendship 7, orbited the Earth three times and splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA continued to make us proud sending ever bigger rockets of the rest of the Mercury, then the Gemini and finally the Apollo missions successfully into space.
On Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in July of 1969. They left a United States flag on the moon surface and perhaps more importantly, a plaque that reminded the world “We came in peace for all mankind.”
I am proud my husband and I flew on Space Shuttles that proudly displayed the flag of the United States of America. On each flight we flew small American flags that would be given to so very many people who made our flights possible who risked their lives to make our nation great.
Happy Independence Day and God Bless America!
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