Friday, May 06, 2011

Fifty years ago this week

Public domain image, NASA

Fifty years ago this week, my homeland took its first step into space by putting a man into Low Earth Orbit. It's a moment that I'm proud of, both as a citizen of the United States and as a member of the larger human community.

Much of that pride comes not only from the sheer difficulty of mastering manned spaceflight, but also from the contribution to human welfare made by the American space program. From the satellites that track hurricanes and typhoons, to electrical insulation that has greatly improved fire safety, to diagnostic technology used in medicine, the spin-offs from space flight have saved lives and helped to improve the quality of human life around the world.

As I discussed last month upon the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering flight into space, our future as a species lies beyond the gravity well of our native planet. That, and in learning the skills needed to traverse or even live the vacuum of space, we will master the methods and tools that will let us survive some of the worst Black Swan catastrophes that our universe and homeworld will eventually throw at us here on Earth.

Public domain image, US Navy

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