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IMG_1031In those days of anticipation, I was just a boy.  Yet, it was easy to get caught up in the NASA exploration of the stars, a sensational exclamation point of God’s mighty hand of creation.  Their adventures captured the imagination of every American and the citizens of the world.

Putting a man in space challenged the comic cartoon dreams of being Flash Gordon.  Describing the thrill and national pride of the stars and stripes on the sleeve of a space suit and following every bit of progress on nightly television news was a part of history that I lived.  Now, I could reminisce even further during my stroll through NASA’s space center.

In the dark exhibit of NASA’s march into space it would be easy to overlook the overhead displays.  Everything on ground level was so fascinating.  Your brain is left spinning with the historical notes, the audio recollection of astronauts and the life-size displays of real space capsules, rovers, space suits and space stations.

Yet, overhead, hanging from the star-studded ceiling is a Gemini space capsule.  The door is open to let the light add to the display.  There on a long tether is a tribute to one of the great benchmarks of space exploration.

An astronaut was out for a space walk.  In my youth when this historic exercise was about to occur, we all doubted that it could be real.  Our life in comic books said it was true but the human imagination has no limits but science makes us think twice.

Yet, right in that historic moment we all marveled.  We were glued to our television sets.  Our minds were memorizing the moments, listening intently to the commentators, trying to sense what it was like to walk in space.

Now, to be in the NASA Space Visitor’s center and to stand in that exhibit was deeply stirring.  The life-sized components including the capsule, space suit and tether makes the adventuresome spirit of any American swell with pride.  America did it!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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FullSizeRender-4NASA is a bright spot in Americana pride and joy.  It never ceases to make me marvel when I walk on to the campus of this collection of very bright and dedicated scientists, engineers and astronauts.  Something precious about life and exploration meet on these grounds and stir the soul of every visitor.

There in the parking lot, far too massive for an inside display is a Boeing 747 carry the Space Shuttle on its back.  Before you ever buy your entry ticket, you are drawn to this scene-stealing display.  Everyone stops by for a look, pictures and a moment of awe.

Inside the Visitor Center NASA has made a spectacular display of their historic achievements.  Every American is a  part of it.  The spirit of the USA pervades every part of the exploration of space.

One of the permanent displays shows off the Gemini program.  Tiny capsules that crammed two astronauts into tight quarters and orbited them around the earth hang from the ceiling.  But, the display is set in the stars of our galaxy.

Countless stars twinkle and serve as an amazing backdrop for this space flight.  It is full scale and the dark hall makes you feel like you are orbiting with these heroes of old.  How clever were these scientists, how skillful were these engineers and how courageous were these astronauts.

Our space exploration seems out-of-this-world to us.  Yet, it is only touching the edge of the vastness of space.  Can human technology thrust us even further?

When the Creator made the heavens He did a spectacular job.  Its vastness speaks of His amazing power and greatness.  We can only marvel and worship.

When Orion launches, maybe I will still be among the millions on earth that will marvel at what America can do.  The greatness of our nation may consume me like all who will be riveted to their televisions, computer monitors and live stream radios to cheer on each inch of movement toward the next great objective in space.

America’s best is exemplified with these achievements.  Putting a man or woman on Mars is next.  Maybe the Orion module will hang from the ceiling in another part of this great exhibit some day.

Perhaps my grandchildren will bring their children and friends to this special place, gaze and marvel together.  Space is the last frontier.  It calls all who have adventure in their souls.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

IMG_4382Tuesday night there was more than thunder rumbling through my adopted city of Houston, Texas.  Michigan buddies rode their motorcycles into town for a visit.  That is over 1,000 miles of road warrior travel just for the sake of the ride and good memories.

These residents of the Motor City were introduced to a metroplex with a penchant for individual vehicle transportation.  Everyone drives in Houston.  You cannot live here very easily without a vehicle, preferably a pickup truck.

Some have even assessed our city culture and suggest that a vehicle equals or in many cases surpasses the choice of a place to live.  Is that extreme?  Most of us who live here would at least suggest that there is some merit to that assumption.

My motorcycle buddies at least have that thought planted in their minds.  They were introduced to Houston traffic after a long day of riding.  Add to the stop and go traffic of I-610 a major thunder-storm and it really gets dodgy.

IMG_4380Not only was the rush hour traffic horrendous and the thunderstorm unpleasant but construction with narrow lanes and debris added to the tricky negotiations of motorcycle riding.  Of course those occasional out-of-state transplants who speed and cut annoy everyone.  Too many in traffic jams are on their phones texting and drift over their lane lines and squeeze a motorcyclist.

Aside from the hazards of riding our fellowship was amazingly fun!  The rain kept pouring down so we parked the bikes under the hotel eave and piled into my pickup truck for a tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center.  It was a perfect day to visit.

Schools were not bringing in bus loads of children and the tourist season had already ended.  Without the crowds we could see everything and did not wait in lines.  The displays  and historic moments were easy to enjoy and take in for our easy riders.

IMG_4407Standing next to the massive 747 and Shuttle we felt our diminutive size but also sensed our enormous pride in what our nation has able to do.  Our smart phones have capacities that old computers in the past could not do.  Yet, our nation launched men into space, landed them on the moon and brought them safely home.

Our little band of bikers took in the size and sights of NASA’s greatest accomplishments.  Mostly, our time was about our journey through life, friendship, past rides and fun adventures.   Ron, Richard and Scott are great friends and even greater buddies with shared memories.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

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My youth was marked with deep regard for the astronauts of the Apollo program.  Whenever there was a flight our family gathered around our television and watched the coverage.  It was exciting, patriotic and unifying for our entire nation.

From the Mercury program to the Apollo program, it was surreal to think that Americans were actually planning on landing on the moon.  Could it be done?  How can we avoid the dangers?  What would happen if something went wrong?

With every successful launch we cheered.  The conversation of how powerful that rockets were to propel a capsule into space.  We often talked about the brave men who volunteered to go into space and explore that vast reaches of the heavens.

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When Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon, we joined those around the world in holding our breath.  Then, when his foot stepped on to the surface of the moon, we cheered.  It was an unforgettable national experience. 

Everyone talked about it.  The year was 1969 and became uniquely special for so many reasons.  It is forever etched in my mind.

Along with every other young man, working for NASA as a scientist was a dream.  But, only the best, never the minimum could hope to be a part of that team.  Calculus left me behind and the slide rule was never very friendly, but a young man can still dream.

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Then, the novelty of space travel wore off quickly.  We took the success for granted.  It was now a routine of casual proportions. 

At least that is how it felt until the next year in 1970 when from Apollo 13 James Lovell reported, “Hey Houston we had a problem here.”  We all dropped what we were doing and again were riveted to the television. 

Each report we inhaled and held it until the next.  We prayed.  We hoped.  We worried.

The relief from welcoming these space explorers back to earth was heartfelt by every American.  Subsequently, the ingenuity of the NASA team made all of America proud.  The space program was again huge on the radar of some many studying for a career.

At the Johnson Space Center in Houston I reflected deeply over those years.  The lives of those lost in the space program, the close class and the achievements all brought great memories back to me.  God’s image in man is a wonder to behold.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

 

 

 

 

IMG_1476I really don’t need another mug.  In fact in our last several moves, I recall sorting out mugs from our kitchen cabinet and filling up a box of unwanted clay-fired drinking implements and donating them to the Salvation Army.  It helped the SA raise money and it reduced the clutter in our kitchen.

But, then, during our visit to the Johnson Space Center, home of NASA, I was following my bride into the gift shop.  She was perusing just about every children’s book that they had on display; once a teacher always a teacher.  That’s when my eyes landed on a mug.

The quotation on the mug was stirring: “Failure is not an option.”  One of the pioneer engineers is credited with this historic statement.  NASA was facing a critical moment in their space program and this declaration pushed the team to that added elevation of human ability and success was achieved.

There is so much about the history of these brilliant scientists and courageous adventurers that stirs the imagination.  It is partly patriotism but mostly the common fiber of humanity that we all share in while we live on this planet.  God simply reveals in the Bible that He created man in His own image.  That says it all.

IMG_1433When I strolled the length of the Saturn V rocket, I marvelled as did all of the guests from around the world who gathered to experience NASA.  How amazing are the feats of man, not as individuals, but as a team of people with a singular mission in mind.  Can you imagine if we saw an end to poverty, abuse, greed, selfishness and pride?  How much could mankind achieve?  It is mind-blowing!

In many ways it is what God also revealed in His Word.  He sent Jesus, His one and only unique Son, to die for our sins and be resurrected from the dead so that we could have eternal life.  If we could live apart from sin, how amazing life would be.

IMG_1418The space shuttle is a monument to human ingenuity.  This massive aircraft designed to be reusable in the space endeavor was a resounding success.  It stirs the spirit of Americans as well as reminds us of the tragedy when precious lives were lost in the exploration of space.

Retirement came to this aging spacecraft.  Now, it is a memory in our minds of man’s giant leaps into space.  We average humans come to admire it with our own eyes.  Well done, NASA, we are very proud of you!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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The Johnson Space Center is a primo destination for those who visit our new home town of Houston.  Here after an hour drive southeast of Katy, you walk the paths of many astronauts and engineers who have ventured into outer space.  They are our modern-day explorers.

What is stunning is the computer capacity in the days of Apollo.  256K is about all the capacity NASA engineers could muster in those days.  But, put that modest capacity into the hands of some very smart people and they landed a man on the moon.

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These courageous explorers brought back samples from the moon: rocks and soil.  In this Space Center, inside a very thick vault, these samples are available for us average citizens to see.  One very hard, shiny, black rock is fixed in a display case so that we average people could touch what these very intelligent people brought back for the rest of the world to marvel.IMG_1454

When my finger slid across the moon rock, it reminded me of obsidian.  It almost looked like an arrowhead before it was shaped to better attach to an arrow shaft.  I liked the memory that it made; now I had touched the moon.

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I felt proud to be an American.  Each of the heroes who lived and died to accomplish these great feats had shared their exploits with the world.  All around me people speaking foreign languages were here at the center to see,

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feel, touch and remember this great human effort and achievement.

Well done, NASA.  We are very proud of you!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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