In the mid-90’s, I recall a conversation with German Space Agency liaison, Gerhart Brauer — both a colleague and good friend to me. I struggled with a painful chapter in my life, and Gerhart offered this one simple phrase that made all the difference at the time. And even today.
Every ending is a new beginning.
Sometimes, though, this concept can be hard to accept. Personally and professionally. Take the end of our beloved Space Shuttle program, for example. Only three flights left. EVER!
My sister Aimee recently reminded me how she and Daddy watched Columbia lift off on April 12, 1981. She remembers him marveling that we could actually launch a rocket from Earth and fly it back to the planet like an airplane. The concept was so unbelievable at the time.
We take it for granted today.
I don’t recall the launch at all. But, I remember the STS-1 landing two days later. I worked at the University of Texas Ex-Students’ Association in Austin. We gathered around the conference table to watch Columbia land. I remember how cool it was to meet STS-1 John Young and Bob Crippin for the first time a few years later. They were the first humans to put their lives on the line and strap themselves onto the Shuttle stack for launch.
But then again, every astronaut who has ever flown on a rocket ship takes a leap of faith — each time we ignite the engines.
Yes, the fleet of amazing reusable winged vehicles served us well over the last two decades (with the exception of our tragic loss of the Challenger and Columbia crew and vehicles on two missions: STS-51-L and STS-107). We don’t relish mothballing the remaining three vehicles: Atlantis, DiscoveryandEndeavour. But think about the exorbitant cost of upgrades. Cost alone makes the close-out decision for NASA managers so much easier than for those on the outside looking in.
Let’s face it, many of us are mourning the end of the program. And that’s ok. Grief is a reasonable human response. We love to watch our winged vehicles soar into the air, breaking gravity’s grasp on humanity. Those of us fortunate enough to witness a Shuttle launch live, love to feel the ground-shaking rumble and the roar of the engines. Some have even seen the night-sky turn to day as the vehicle propels to the heavens above.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Space Shuttle!!!
(Sorry Superman. We’ve got the real thing. You’re only fiction.)
So what happens next? What follows the Space Shuttle program? Many ask. Many are angry and confused. I don’t have the answers. Just know that NASA folks are furiously working to fill in the blanks. (We’ll fly on Soyuz spacecraft to Station in the meantime.) Beyond that, stay tuned. No comfort for thousands of workers who made house payments, put food on the table, and paid school expenses off Shuttle-related paychecks. I get it. This post-Shuttle “new beginning” must feel like a black hole, where everything they know is disappearing into a powerful vortex outside their control. NASA has been planning this for years, but it doesn’t make the end of the program any easier.
We humans don’t like change, do we?
It’s uncomfortable. Messy, at times. We often prefer the certainty of misery over the misery of uncertainty. That’s why we stay in dead-end jobs or in joyless relationships. We’re funny like that. When change comes, we fight it, dig in our heels, complain to anyone who will listen. Does that sound at all familiar?
But with every new beginning, comes new hope for a better tomorrow.
If we can only let go of those things we cling tightly to, we might have two arms free to embrace this scary, unknown new thing — sometimes called a fresh start.
Here are a few ways to face change head on. Our Goal: Influence Change!
- Think creatively.
- Use the same tools in new ways.
- Find new tools to make old ways new.
- Look at a problem upside down and right side up.
- Deconstruct to reconstruct.
- Make change your own.
- Sculpt your world into something better than ever existed before.
Who knows, you might like tomorrow better than today! Really, it could happen.
BTW: The next launch, STS-132, is scheduled for May 14. We’ll be having our second Shuttle Launch tweetup at the Kennedy Space Center and a mission tweetup at the Johnson Space Center. Stay-tuned for stories about the launch, mission, and space tweeps.
If you have stories to share about where you were and how you felt with the first Space Shuttle left Earth (IF you were born), feel free to post them as comments.
Crosspost on Bethbeck’s blog and OpenNASA.com.
Next steps – the problems must be listed, identified and prioritized. And, then seek action for problem solving.
Merely speaking about the approaches for problem solving is not good enough. Humans could put many great things into space and that is testament to what human’s can accomplish, especially America. When such is potential, why is such large incapacitation in identifying the problem and impotency in action.
I think I am going to cry. I was a very young girl (8-9) when I decided I wanted to become an Astronaut. I did not know when I made that decision in 1975-76 that females could not be Astronauts! I even wrote to NASA (10 cent stamp I paid for with a glass bottle), and asked how I could become an astronaut. They nicely let me down and sent me the list of things I needed to become an astronaut. Education, physical, blah, blah, blah… and you must be male. I cried for days. I even chopped my hair off thinking they would never notice I was a girl. As I grew up my idea did not change. I figuered I could always work in the control station.. that would be ok. I ran cross country, I did not do drugs, I was going to work for NASA no matter what. I did science projects on black holes, and red giants. I had very few friends, and I was called space case, and spacy all the time. OH I wanted to go to space! I even thought I would build my own rocket and donate it to NASA, and that would make Nasa let me go, because I would own it! These dreams were in the late 70’s and early 80’s in a farm town in NC. Most women were expected to grow up and get married. Very few women went to college after high school. So, for me to not only say I was going to go to college, and become an Astronaut was like someone saying they were going to be a famous artist and be rich right away. It was looked on by the school as a pipe dream of a mixed up little girl who they thought was dreaming beyond her status in life.
I didn’t care. I fought them all. Whenever anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say Astronaut, and then they would say … no really what do you want to do when you grow up? LOL I see the shock even now when I used to outsiders that. (BTW – My uneducated Dad never thought it was strange his little girl wanted to be an Astronaut. He just told me to keep fighting, and even if I lost, I would still have gained alot more then the kids around me. Which means, I would have still won.)
In any case, I never did become an Astronaut. But, that is ok. I have fun watching the Space Shuttle and knowing that I was right all those years ago. Women can become Astronauts and we can not only be on the crew, but also become the Commanders! Who would have thought all those years ago, sitting in the counselors office, that my argument would hold true? Trust me, the fight was worth it. And my father was right; Even if you don’t end up in your dreams, Dream BIG, and when you lose, you will still win!!
He also used to say – “Other people reach for the Moon and when they fail, they fall back to earth. Honey, reach for the stars, then when you fail, you will land on the Moon.”
I will cry will the last space shuttle goes up. I wish I could see one of them in real life. But, that is ok. HD TV is good too.
@ AMANDA, very endearing story.
Watching “The Planets”, Cosmos (iTune is offering this at a very discounted price), Space Station, Universe on Blu-Ray, the NASA IMAX, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, Einstein are all just awesome. Never ever boring.
Space Station is very uplifting against the palest of palest human misgivings.
Especially Space Program is a testament to human endeavors to what they can achieve both politically and scientifically. 11 + countries collaborated and integrated the components in space, while some of the components were designed independently with no knowledge that they in future would integrate into the larger space station. The engineering feat is just amazing.
Have you heard of Kalpana Chawla, Indian lady astronaut
Unfortunately a gallant lady was lost, although she made India very proud.
Thanks Amanda. What a powerful story. We have three more launches for you to catch a glimpse of liftoff! Start making plans today. 🙂
Srinidhi, you make great points. Thanks for engaging!