“With courage, imagination, and the will to explore, nothing is impossible.” -Neil Armstrong-
Those were the words that stuck with me when I visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. I will make a banner of Armstrong’s quote to hang in my classroom. I will teach children about courage and teamwork. I will teach children about America and history.
I have much to tell. It’s a good story, and an important story.
My husband was a Naval Flight Officer, flying F-4 Phantoms in the 70’s. His squadron, VF-41, is a band of brothers. They have a reunion every three years. This reunion at the Kennedy Space Center was hosted by Jon McBride, a fellow squadron mate, and an astronaut. Jon is from my home state of West Virginia.
He told his story of a kid who loved planes, and his first time flying in a plane. The pilot did loops and other maneuvers, and Jon was hooked. After college he started his Naval career, and his first (and favorite) squadron was VF-41. He became an astronaut, and had the position of President of all the astronauts and cosmonauts.
I am humbled by this. Even more humbling is that many of his astronaut classmates were aboard the Challenger. His last flight was the previous one, and he knew Christa McAuliffe well.
Jon hosted a tour of the Kennedy Space Center. And, oh what a tour it was! We began in the main entrance.
Then we boarded the bus. Jon was a great host, telling many stories. When he told his fellow squadron mates how astronauts fly a modified plane to simulate a space shuttle, there were plenty of oohs and aahs. They understood the modifications and techniques, like thrust reversal.
The first stop was the Apollo building, and the area where people watch a space shuttle take off. There are plenty of bleachers, three miles away from the launch pad. “You don’t want to be any closer that that”, said Jon. The area outside had a new monument to the astronauts who had landed on the moon, fifty years ago.
It is magnificent. The inscription says “The Eagle Has Landed.” How important it is to connect the eagle with this Apollo mission. The eagle is the bird of America, our symbol of freedom and bravery. Walking across the NASA emblem in the center of the yard felt like walking on hallowed ground.
There are no words to describe the magnitude of the enormity of size of components of the Apollo space program. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Our next stop was the Atlantis exhibit. The two movies educated people on the space shuttle and how it evolved. Picture a guy in the 1960’s flying a paper aircraft to his fellow brainy science teammates (who can think outside of the box) and telling them to figure out how to get this into space. The movies ended with the unveiling of the Atlantis.
Grown men cried. You could have heard a pin drop. No one realized the Atlantis – the real deal – would be there. Right there.
That evening we had dinner at the Valiant Air Command Museum. We had the whole place, with planes predominantly from Korea and Vietnam – the squadron’s era of aviation.
American history is important, and that’s much of what I teach to preschoolers. History builds pride and goodness, doing the right thing, and helping others. Our world needs a big dose of just that.
I will start teaching about the astronauts landing on the moon. We will learn about the moon. I will tell a Jennie “It happened like this” story, because I was there, fifty years ago.
Where will I begin? With the eagle, of course.