Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Saturday commemorated the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon. He raised more than $190,000 for his nonprofit space education foundation and honored space innovators and pioneers. (July 17)
The woman in line next to me was fussing with her security badge, its plastic broken and no longer able to secure to the lanyard after losing its encounter with her “intergalactic beads.”
Undeterred, she broke out of line, saying “I think I’m supposed to be over there,” as she walked toward a stage where a group of astronauts were gathering beyond the amazing Saturn V rocket hanging overhead.
“I better go with my astronaut,” her companion said, giving chase.
The woman with the broken plastic security badge was Mae Carol Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space. She was a mission specialist in 1992 aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. She certainly wasn’t going to let a little cracked security badge deter her now.
Later in the evening at the Apollo 11 48th Anniversary Gala, a fundraiser for Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation, she would be presented with the first Buzz Aldrin Space Pioneer Award. Tim Christensen, director of education at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center and a former Brevard Public Schools teacher, was awarded the Buzz Aldrin Educator Award.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com and Blue Origin, received the first Buzz Aldrin Space Innovation Award.
I love this event, and not because it is a chance to rub elbows with rich and famous celebrities and heroic American space explorers, though that is kind of cool, too. I did introduce myself to Jeff Bezos and took his photo.
No, I love this event because it is a night on which we can celebrate all our great nation has been and dream about what it may accomplish. More than that, it is a chance to be around people who have done it, dreamed it and are actually doing things to make the future happen.
They understand that it takes dreamers and doers, and it was an entire night of just that, getting a peek inside the thinking and how it developed.
And from start to finish — bus ride to the Kennedy Space Center and bus ride back to the Hilton in Cocoa Beach — I heard not one doubting Thomas; not one person who got up on stage and thought this evening was about him or her exclusively or alone.
I heard nothing resembling the politics of rancor our nation has endured. No mission to the moon or trip to Mars or exploration of the galaxy can ever be powered by division. It takes heroes, pioneers and dreamers to turn inspiration into accomplishment.
And that is what Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins — backed by an entire nation — gave us in landing on the moon in 1969. And what Aldrin and his team, and people like Jemison, Collins, Bezos, Andy Aldrin and others speaking at this event, offered again.
Forty-eight years ago, on July 16, 1969, Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins left the Earth’s atmosphere headed to the moon and a place in the hearts of people around the world. They inspired us, yes, but more importantly they left a map for how we can achieve even greater accomplishments.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jemison said it best:
“When Buzz says, ‘Get your ass to Mars,’ it’s not just about the physical part of getting to Mars,” she said. “It’s also about that commitment to doing something big and audacious.”
Big and audacious is why I still get a thrill meeting astronauts like Florida Tech’s Winston Scott — not just because they have been to space and accomplished what mankind could only dream about for thousands of years, but also because they have had the right mix of inspiration, focus, determination and willingness to work hard as a team member to get it done.
ShareSpace Foundation has a mission to reignite America’s passion for space by inspiring our children in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. It is that group, our children and grandchildren, which will carry forward the dream to the moon, Mars and beyond.
Check them out at https://sharespace.org/ and help inspire a new generation to greatness.
I’m on the Bill Mick Live radio show on WMMB 1240 AM and 1350 AM at 8 a.m. Fridays. Please join us.
Bob Gabordi is executive editor at FLORIDA TODAY. His direct dial number is 321-242-3607 and cell phone is 850-591-2229. He is @bgabordi on Twitter and /bgabordi on Facebook. You can also find him on LinkedIn. His email address is [email protected]
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