Monday, August 25, 2008

In memoriam

I received a bit of sad news yesterday.

In sixth grade my teacher did some work with us kids on the topic of space. Now, I knew about astronauts and the Space Shuttle and NASA and all that before this, but it never really reached out and grabbed me like it did at that point in my life. There were some boys a year older than me that had gone to the Space Camp at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center the previous summer, and they came to our classroom to talk about their experiences at that camp. I pretty much thought this was about as cool a thing you could dream up, and was lucky enough that my folks could put together the money to send me to the camp in Hutchinson the following two summers. The second year of the camp included a several-day trip by bus down to Houston to tour the Johnson Space Center. I'd never seen anything like astronauts actually in the old neutral buoyancy tank practicing space walks or the titanic Saturn V booster that was on display. Unsurprisingly, this proved to be a majorly formative experience that has had echoing repercussions in my life to this very day as I await word on my first application to NASA to become an astronaut candidate for real.

I've been most lucky in my life to have a very supportive family, set of teachers, friends, and total strangers as regards to my long-term goal to reach this lofty goal that I set for myself in the sixth grade. My teacher played a major role in inspiring me and introducing me to this fascinating field that is now my profession, and I greatly regret that she succumbed to cancer before I managed to climb the gravity well into space. I hope to be able to repay the support and assistance I've received from her and so many people by actually making my goal a reality and letting them share in that experience vicariously.

This picture appeared in my local newspaper back then, and features me and two friends/classmates of mine that attended the camp that first year. We all ended up in quite technical careers, and I often wonder how much our experience that summer had to do with where we've gotten to at this point in our lives.

Ad Astra Per Aspera
"To the stars through difficulties..."


lillylyle said...

If you could vote for astronaut candidates Ethan, you would have my vote.

They don't seem to make many teachers like the one you mention anymore.

I had two English teachers, one in grade 7 and one in grade 10, who inspired me so much that I ended up studying English Literature at University. Though it has never helped me get a job, the deeper understanding I have of books is something that gives me pleasure that cannot be measured in money.

EthanG said...

Thanks much for the vote of confidence. Hopefully the astronaut selection board at NASA will agree with you.

Teachers definitely have a huge impact on many lives, and it'd be nice if the respect (and pay) they receive were a bit more commensurate with their influence on society.