On hearing only a few minutes ago that Mercury-era and X-15 Program pilot and astronaut Neil Armstrong had passed, I was struck with only one sentiment: this is a loss of national tragic proportions, indeed a national loss.
Let us not forget the millions of mathematical calculations, the hours of scientific achievement, the weeks and months and years of testing the equipment that would eventually place the great, the legendary, the brave, the courageous Neil Armstrong, among America‘s finest pilots and astronauts, on our Satellite.
We must not let the dream of, the love of, the romance of space exploration and astronomy pass from the halls of our educational institutions. We must not let the hard work and diligence that placed Armstrong and others on the Moon, go to waste when there is so much up and coming, so much potential out there in our young students who want to explore, to do more than remain earth-bound and stare at the stars and planets.
They want to step on those worlds, to gather the data, to touch the dust and rocks as Armstrong and his colleagues did.
As we consider the shock of this loss, let all politicians and officials who read this and who think of Pilot-Astronaut Armstrong, remember that it is the love of learning, the want and need of mankind to explore, to reach out, to yearn to visit other worlds and exotic places, that inspires students to get up, go to school, and spend hours learning, reading, doing those math calculations, the science and the designing.
It is those students who will join NASA, who will work at JPL, who will test spacecraft at Vandenburg and on the Space Coast, and who will join scientists and pilots in other countries in exploration, testing, flying and designing. Those students will do the astronomy, will explore the planets, will document the movements of asteroids, stars, moons, and galaxies. They will chart future courses to the Moon for bases and to Mars as well… provided we never lose sight of how important… how essential it is, that we keep focused on the STEM areas of education.
STEM: Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics- and when you think about it, what much of our education system relates to and our economy is built on. It is not complicated to consider. It is not “hard” or “difficult” or “complex” or for the “rocket scientists” only. It is for everyone who wants to do what is challenging, what is hard, what will require hours in the lab, late nights in the corridors of learning, and who will wait to see the test results of the latest booster craft, the capsules for space flight, the robotic rockets that will go where Viking, Mariner, and others have visited.
They will have the sense of curiosity that inspired us to send the Curiosity Rover to Mars only this month.
Neil Armstrong, we remember you and we hope others will follow in your flight path.
Divi Logan for EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, 2012.