American Inspiration - reflections upon flying past Cape Canaveral
January 16, 2008
I was recently at a conference in Orlando and as we gained altitude flying north, I could see Cape Canaveral in the distance, backlit by the morning sun. As the Cape slid past the window, I thought about what the Apollo Space Program had meant to me.
During those missions, I would wait each evening for my father's silhouette to appear at the top of the street, as he walked the two blocks from the bus stop to our home. I would race to grab the paper under his arm, so I could see the latest pictures and diagrams about the moon landing. I would read every article and study the elliptical paths showing the spacecraft's trajectory. My schoolteacher, observing my enthusiasm, appointed me to keep the class updated, and each evening I cut out articles to be posted in the class. I huddled over the radio listening to the astronauts reading " one, zero, zero, one, one, zero, one, ...", transfixed by the technology I didn't understand.
As my Orlando flight edged north up the Florida coast, I sat back and thought about the power of Apollo, and the power of American dreams to inspire people across the globe. Kennedy intended the space program to inspire Americans to become engineers and scientists. But I wasn't an American child. I was halfway round the world growing up in South Africa. And were it not for Apollo 11, I would not be an engineer.