Maybe America can be great again.
At the risk of getting a barrage of hateful comments from people in perpetual denial about the general dumbing down of America, I need to post this.
This morning, I watched the 45-minute webcast of SpaceX’s recent history-making launch. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here:
Or better yet, do what I did: load up the YouTube channel on a Roku and watch it on a big screen TV.
There are a few things that struck me about this presentation.
- Youth. The very first thing that stuck me is the age of the folks who were part of this event. Young people in public relations and engineering positions. Young people everywhere. This wasn’t a dreary circa 1970 NASA launch reel with too many guys in too many white shirts and ties. This was today’s youth in jeans and T-shirts and hoodies. Talking the way we all talk, using words we all understand about an amazing scientific achievement. No, not every young American is spoiled, entitled, and/or unable to think of anything beyond fashion or music or video games. Some of them are today’s rocket scientists.
- Scientific achievement. I think we’ve become so accustomed to seeing amazing thing in movies and on television that we don’t realize how much of it is fake. So when a company like SpaceX can send a rocket booster into space and then land it successfully in an upright and vertical position on a landing pad only 282 feet in diameter, we don’t understand what a truly amazing achievement that is.
- Media Presentation. SpaceX apparently did a live webcast of this launch. You didn’t have to tune into a television channel or have cable news access or watch countless advertisements squeezed in to maximize broadcaster revenue. You saw a series of SpaceX staff members telling you what was going on, with an informative timeline and video feeds to show what was coming up and what was actually happening. This was available all over the world — and it still is, for free, on YouTube. Heck, I was even able to embed it here to save readers the bother of searching for it online. The only excuse for not seeing this is apathy.
As I watched the video and saw actual footage from space of the first booster separating from the main rocket, I had tears in my eyes. And more tears when I saw that first booster standing upright on an old Florida launch pad, still smoking from the engine that had enabled it to softly touch down on four landing legs less than ten minutes after being in space. Then, when the chant that I was thinking of started up from the spectators: “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!” It made me feel really proud to be an American for the first time in a very long time.
When I was a kid, my mother made me stay up to watch Neil Armstrong step out of a metal capsule and walk on the moon. She said I’d be witnessing history and, at 7 years old, I really didn’t care all that much. But I watched it and I remember it and nearly 46 years later, I’m glad I did.
This morning, sitting on my sofa, I watched something almost equally amazing — but have heard only the briefest mention of it on the radio and television. Ho hum. I guess a real achievement by man can’t compete with the box office stats for the latest Star Wars movie.
Making America great again has nothing to do with immigration and war and terrorists and religion. It has everything to do with what made America great in the first place: courage, innovation, the embracing of science and technology, and the willingness to work hard to achieve great things.
When my fellow Americans can put aside their anger and hate and the other things that divide them, when they can stop denying the findings of science, when they can see that moving forward is far more important for the future than dwelling upon real or imagined slights in the past, when they can see that the differences among their fellow men can help them grow and learn and see the world in new and exciting ways — well, then America will start to be great again. Until then, spectators like me, on the downhill slope of life, will have to be satisfied with observing pockets of greatness offered by innovative American companies like SpaceX.
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