It can be very difficult to remain positive at this juncture in history. The killing of George Floyd and the protests that have followed and the continuing pressure brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have brought grief and despair across the globe. In such troubling times the bright spots seem few and far between, but they are there.
A significant bright spot came recently in the form of a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center, a mission that brought memories of the American space program of the 1960s, when in the midst of unrest the nation was still able to send humans to set foot on another world.
It was not a moon mission, but the SpaceX launch that brought two astronauts to the International Space Station Sunday may turn out to be at least as significant. When Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived in the Dragon capsule and docked automatically and hours later embraced the station’s residents it was the first in what is hoped will become routine. A privately built and owned spacecraft took the astronauts to the space station. As the Associated Press report put it, it was the “opening volley in a business revolution encircling Earth and eventually stretching to the moon and Mars.”
“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a call from Mission Control in Houston.
It was the first astronaut launch from the U.S. in almost a decade. NASA reported that online viewership reached 10 million.
It’s not going to solve the problems of the world, obviously, but there’s no discounting such a unifying enterprise. It was, noted Hurley, “just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months to kind of inspire, especially the young people in the United States, to reach for these lofty goals.”
When it comes to inspiring: mission accomplished.