Fifty years ago today Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first members of mankind to land on the surface of the moon. I was nine years old at the time. Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” inspired me to try to follow in his footsteps. It gave me a sense of vision that guided my career in first earning a Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from M.I.T., and then going to work in the commercial space industry in Houston.
America in the 1960s was filled with challenges, including a cold war with Russia, protests over the senseless loss of American young men in Vietnam, and injustices related to the rights of minorities and women. Yet, despite those many challenges, it was a time of great optimism. Racism had the prospect of dying off as those who held those viewpoints from the past aged into oblivion. Education and science was embraced. Economic growth was rampant. The quality of medical care and life expectancy in America were steadily increasing. America was the world leader in technology. Gene Roddenberry filled our minds and our TV screens with a vision of a Star Trek into the future in which mankind left behind it’s pettiness to boldly become something far greater.