One of the Bravest and Most Selfless Acts in Modern History

SpaceflightBug.jpg

April 12 is a very special day, worthy of celebrating every year. But this year is different. In 1961, as a ten-year-old kid reading science fiction, I could easily believe that people were trying to do what others only dreamed and wrote about. But now, looking back fifty years, it is hard to believe that we did it given the state of the art and the challenges involved. It seems like such a very long time ago. No doubt it was an inspiration for me. Something to fuel my dreams. I did not look at it as an accomplishment by a potential adversary but rather as a great achievement by the human race much the way I admired (and still do) the accomplishments of the early explorers from different countries.

Thirty years later I was a test pilot and flight test instructor, taking a class of test pilots under instruction on a field trip that included the Johnson Space Center. We met with John Young and Bob Crippen a few weeks before their historic flight on the very first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1. We talked about it the way any group of test pilots would a "first flight." But we all knew this would be different. That night, a fellow test pilot and instructor and I discussed the day and both agreed that JSC might be a pretty good place to work. Eventually, Mike McCulley and I both went to work there as astronauts and later as business executives -- it was the most exciting part of our careers.

I plan to travel to Moscow to celebrate Gagarin's first flight with my Russian cosmonaut colleagues. But with the upcoming "last flight" of the shuttle, my thoughts today will be mostly on STS-1 and John Young and Bob Crippen. What they did thirty years ago should be remembered as one of the bravest and most selfless acts in modern history for it opened the door to an incredible era of human space exploration that will continue long after the Space Shuttle is retired.

Presented by

Kenneth Reightler

Selected by NASA in June 1987, Reightler became an astronaut in August 1988. He piloted two missions including STS-60, the first joint U.S./Russian Space Shuttle Mission, before retiring to run programs supporting human spaceflight at Lockheed Martin.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

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

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In