A Leap Forward: Reaching Beyond All Reasonable Bounds

More

Until we first orbited the Earth fifty years ago, our only view of the surface was the view from an airplane window. The first flights of Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard expanded our vision -- we saw the curvature of the planet, as well as the lack of man-made boundaries.

SpaceflightBug.jpg

It was a leap forward, as Civilization author Kenneth Clark would call it. Clark said, "Three or four times in history, man has made a leap forward that normally would have been considered unthinkable."

We demonstrated this spirit of reaching beyond all reasonable bounds when we took the next leap, only a few years later, onto the moon. From the moon, our view of the Blue Planet penetrated our very consciousness as citizens of the Earth. Fifty years later, we have advanced from a single orbit around the Earth to a permanent human presence on orbit, living and working on the International Space Station.

Human beings have always been explorers. Adventuring into the unknown challenges us to learn and grow. Having a vision, and the potential to realize that vision, keeps us alive and confident.

As one of a small group of people who have had the opportunity to orbit the Earth on the Space Shuttle, I can personally say that going into space takes a little courage, as well as a great deal of trust in the technology and the people who make the technology work. But my experience was built on the history of others who went before me, and a record of successful missions.

Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard were the true space explorers. From opposite ends of the Earth, they had the courage to trust their nations' newly minted launch systems and engineers. They took the leap forward into the untested concept of manned spaceflight, leading the way. I salute their achievements.

Jump to comments
Presented by

A veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, Brewster Shaw is a former NASA astronaut, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and currently an executive at Boeing. Shaw was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 6, 2006.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In