Georgia Voices: NASA’s Carpenter had the right stuff
by The Gainesville Times
October 18, 2013 12:00 AM | 1999 views | 3 3 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An American original passed away last week, a man who was a household name for a generation raised in an era when outer space was brought closer to earth and anything seemed possible.

Scott Carpenter, one of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts, died Thursday at age 88. He was the fourth American in space and second to orbit the globe after John Glenn, who at 92 is the only surviving member of the group that included Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

Those who read the book or saw the movie “The Right Stuff” know the story of a handful of gutsy, daredevil test pilots who willingly became America’s first guinea pigs in the space race with the Russians. They were “Spam in a can” with no assurances of survival amid the breakneck advancements that hurtled them into the heavens. And in the case of Grissom and many others since, lives were indeed lost in the effort.

It was a remarkable time in which a charismatic president welcomed a new era of modern marvels by promising to reach the moon within a decade, a bold challenge considering we had only begun to create the intricate technological systems needed for such a mission. The sound barrier had been broken only 15 years earlier, and the Soviets had beaten us into space with their Sputnik satellite a decade after that.

Yet our nation embraced such endeavors, from space travel to self-cleaning ovens, with an eye toward the future.

Fast-forward to today. We now see our nation locked in a death grip of political gridlock, unable to join hands on any issue, much less venture to new worlds. There is no rallying point like the space program to bring us together; our arguments these days are over earth-bound concerns like budgets, health insurance and life’s other necessities. Even then, we have few leaders with the vision to conquer new frontiers, mostly self-serving ideologues eyeballing polls and the next election rather than the cosmos.

If the space program was a validation of what we can do as a nation when the people and their leaders unite behind a common goal, today’s standoff in Washington reflects the opposite end of that spectrum. ...

Godspeed to astronaut Carpenter and his Mercury pioneers who went before him. They embodied the best of us then, and their brand of courage and daring would be a welcome antidote to our present-day torpor.

In fact, a little more of the “right stuff” these days might just be the cure for what ails us.

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Linda in Acworth
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October 18, 2013
High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth.

Of sun-split clouds--and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of-

Wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,

I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft throught footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sancitity of space,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Laura Armstrong
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October 18, 2013
Excellent editorial by the Gainesville Times' staff! All that was missing was the line (after "there is no rallying point like the space program to bring us together")is the addendum "and no president calling Americans to a higher purpose. In fact, Obama has relegated NASA to the strange and disturbing role of making Muslims feel good about their past world achievements."

Americans are stuck with a pugilistic president, a street fighting, self-aggrandizing dictator wanna-be whose disdain for the American Experiment was cemented in childhood. Until we find a leader who can indeed call us to greater, not lesser things (like free stuff), America will continue to disappoint history.
jssevey
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October 18, 2013
Well said, Laura.
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