Thursday, October 10, 2013

Farewell Scott Carpenter

Today we mourn the loss of Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter.  Carpenter orbited the Earth when I was about 2 months old and helped usher in the Space Age.  He and the other pioneers of the early space program were a brave group.  They took risks that we wouldn't dream of taking today – flying on rockets that tended to explode;  into an environment that we weren't yet sure would be hospitable, or at least tolerable to human life; and then back to Earth in fiery descents that took them into the deep ocean for rescue.

Without Carpenter, Shepard, Grissom, Glenn, Schirra, Cooper and Slayton, we couldn't have gone to the Moon, built Skylab and Space Station or today be thinking of voyages beyond.  The combination of the right people (think Wernher Von Braun and John F. Kennedy), at the right time (The Cold War and the emerging technical capability suitable for space travel), and in the right country (with the money to fund the effort and the know-how to support it) make this generation admirable, and many argue, unique in human history.

Some say that significant historical events happen because “it is the right time.”  I say that these events are often totally dependent upon the people who make them happen.  Ideas are important; the tide of history cannot be ignored; but without the people to act, some events will simply not occur.

Scott Carpenter and his generation are passing.  They will be sorely missed.

Les Johnson - editor of "Going Interstellar" and co-author of "Back to the Moon"
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