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Filling the Space

| | Inspiration

John F. Kennedy, in a speech on May 25, 1961, declared “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”.

As I prepare for the extraordinary opportunity to be part of the #NASATweetup for the Endeavor Launch scheduled for April 29, 2011, I am both very excited and very sad.

Through the years I have witnessed many launches, first from the front porch of my in-laws and more recently from my own front yard.  I snagged tickets to the STS-131 Discover Launch on April 5, 2010 and watched from Kennedy Space Center with my daughter thinking it would be our only opportunity to feel like a part of this incredible chapter of our history.  This second and most certainly final opportunity is truly a gift.

Yet I am also filled with sadness.  It is an ending that leaves a huge void, not just in terms of space exploration or even the earthly concern of jobs.  It leaves a void of possibility for our future.

From a patriotic point of view the space program has been an extraordinary source of national pride.  While it is not completely going away, our inability to travel to space on a vehicle made in the USA is a symbolic blow.  We will continue to provide leadership in space exploration, but it seems the common man’s link is being severed.  For many of us NASA’s Shuttle Program has been an ever present reminder of our power as human beings to declare a future and realize it.  It is an example I’ve often used in working with people on their leadership and their vision for their organizations.

Of course there are differing opinions about whether ending NASA’s Shuttle program this year was a good decision for the US or not.  Many people, including our partners in space exploration from around the world, wonder why we are retiring perfectly sound vehicles, the most advanced by far anywhere in the world, with nothing to take its place and no clear promise regarding what is next.  We are not only limiting our own future in space, but what can be accomplished through space exploration for the entire world.  On the other hand there are those that believe we shouldn’t be spending any money on a space program when there are so many problems yet to be solved on this earth.

Yet what if the worldwide collaboration in exploring space has everything to do with solving the problems on our planet?

Space exploration has been one arena in which world leaders have consistently come together for the common good.  And what about the technological advances that have already emerged and could be yet to come?   Check out this incredible list if you aren’t already familiar with the contributions space exploration has made here on earth:  NASA Spinoffs:  Bringing Space Down to Earth.

On September 12, 1962 at Rice University John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy – but because they are hard! Because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win!”

So I am left wondering: what are “the other things” we will do next that will contribute as much to our life here on earth as Space Exploration has on what we know, what we can now do and our sense of wonder and possibility here on earth?

What promise do you think could fill the void of possibility for our global future  – the kind of promise that could become a potent source of dreams for generations to come?

If you are interested in following the launch via social media I suggest you join the public group Follow STS-134 on Facebook and #NASATweetup on Twitter.  You can also follow my tweet here on my blog.  Just look to the right (you may have to scroll down a bit) to see my live my twitter stream.  I will be posting live from Cape Canaveral on April 28/29.  If you have any questions or anything you want to share about the launch during those days just post a comment here and I will do my best to address them.

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Barb   |   26 April 2011   |   Reply

Susan,
You have captured my thoughts and feelings on this momentous event. I feel like you’ve been listening to my subconscious.
Thank you for seizing the opportunity to be “live” and to be willing to share your views of the launch.
I was in high school when JFK made that initial speech. I remember the conversations it began at school, and the conversations around my family’s kitchen table. How wonderful that you have been able to share the view with your daughter. Significant moments become Lifetime Memories and ‘family stories”.
This will be a Remarkable day!

Susan Mazza   |   26 April 2011   |   Reply

Thank you Barb. There’s still one more launch to time is not out yet for you to check this one off on your bucket list!

Jay Forte   |   27 April 2011   |   Reply

Thanks Susan, you always post amazing things. To answer your question, my thought is it could be the promise of understanding and tolerance – that we hold in focus a world that doesn’t need to fight its way into extinction, but one that realizes its potential by respecting the value, life and spirit of each person, by including instead of excluding, respecting instead of disrespecting, and dialoging instead of fighting. Sounds far fetched? – yeah, but so did going to the moon…

Susan Mazza   |   02 May 2011   |   Reply

Beautiful sentiment beautifully said Jay!

Thanks for the kind words about my blog.

Lolly Daskal   |   29 April 2011   |   Reply

What would I promise? I would promise nothing.
But I would inspire and empower plenty. Our future generation of leaders and innovators and dreamers need to understand.
– time is your most precious resource
– never think you are better than anyone else
– creating alone is good creating together for something higher than ourselves is even greater
– our journey is about cultivating curiosity and openness.
– allow yourself to accept that setbacks.
-forgive often and move on.
– do something to add value to society
– work hard, be humble, and treat everyone with respect and dignity.
-and always take the high road.

Wishing you a remarkable day.
Lolly

Jay Forte   |   29 April 2011   |   Reply

Lolly
Your words need to be posted someplace we can see them each day. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Mazza   |   02 May 2011   |   Reply

A great set of principles to live by Lolly. Thank you for sharing them here in the spirit of this post.

You remind us that ultimately the purpose of the kind of “promise” I refer to here lies not in what we do but rather in what we contribute and who we become n the process.

Jenifer Olson   |   01 May 2011   |   Reply

Hi Susan,

Thank you for such a special, touching post.

I was in second grade when President Kennedy announced the goal of sending an American safely to the moon before the end of the decade. So, I really grew up against the backdrop of national optimism and spirit of discovery the US manned space program engendered. And I agree it’s kind of sad to see this phase of space exploration is coming to a close.

But that said, I don’t believe the end of the US space shuttle program is the end of space exploration or manned space flight. I have high hopes a collaborative, international space program will provide the unity of purpose humanity needs to reach higher than ever before–and possibly even serve as a way for mankind to learn greater appreciation and respect for, as Jay notes above, “the value, life and spirit of each person” on our beautiful little blue planet.

So, to me, the end of the space shuttle program isn’t the end of a dream at all; it’s just part of a bigger dream…

Jenifer @jenajean

Susan Mazza   |   02 May 2011   |   Reply

First I want to thank you Jenifer for making this experience possible for me. Your sharing about the last NASA Tweetup and guest post here about your experience titled “Knock of Opportunity” was a knock for me that i am so glad I answered!!

I share your optimism about the future of space exploration even more than ever from what I saw and learned last week at NASA. Yet even the folks as NASA talked about this being a time of transition in space exploration. Perhaps it is too soon to expect a vision for the future – sometimes we need to be patient and allow things to emerge. Yet I do admit to wanting one. In the meantime those of us who believe in the program can continue to fan the flames and let people know about the great work that is being done and continue to fuel the possibility for the future.

And I do believe we need a vision in general as a country for something more than just the promise of solving the problems of today if we are to once again thrive as a nation.

Sean Conrad   |   02 May 2011   |   Reply

Great post Susan.

JFK’s speech is one of the best examples of an excellent big audacious goal. It’s a great example to use when teaching people how to write excellent goals.

Great thoughtful post!

Tom McGee   |   12 May 2011   |   Reply

Susan,
We live in a time of unprecedented possibilities. JFK accelerated our arrival here through his vision. I recently read a study that suggest that creative collaboration takes place better face to face. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0014279. That may be true but is backwards looking (based on a 10 years study at Harvard Medical School). The world is evolving rapidly into a global culture built on freedom of access to global knowledge resources. Global collaboration is the imperative of the future. How about envisioning a true global learning and collaboration platform for leaders? It is hard to see people as evil that you are collaborating with on solving mutual challenges. Peace and grace. Tom
PS – I will be quoting you in an upcoming blog on collaboration. Thanks for all your thoughtful work.

Susan Mazza   |   18 May 2011   |   Reply

Thank you Tom for sharing your inspiring thoughts here on global collaboration. I am with you – it is an imperative for our future.

You remind me of a saying that i think applies here – You can’t hate someone whose story you know. My expereince at the NASA Tweetup showed me that the spirit and possibility of global collaboration is alive and well in the space program.

Also, thanks for your link to my post on the Lead Change blog Can Collaboration Prevail? here is the link for anyone interested http://leadchangegroup.com/can-collaboration-prevail/