Shoot for the Moon

The anniversary of the assassination of JFK has come and gone. I wish the news coverage would have focused on more of JFK the person instead of giving us more of the Warren report. There was so much to this man, and one can only wonder how his presidency would be remembered if it had been served in full. Americans hate being cheated. And we were cheated. JFK became president when Presidential politics entered the television era, beating Nixon who came across fidgety and nervous compared to JFK’s calm charisma. Here is an excerpt of one of my favorite speeches (You can also find the full transcript here. He could give a speech):

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

We choose to go to the moon. 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 goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

I visited the Adler Planetarium in Chicago a few weeks ago with my son. When going to Chicago, I almost always overlook it compared to the Aquarium, Art Museum and Field Museum. Inside, the exhibit Shoot for the Moon chronicles Jim Lovell’s life and America’s Apollo missions into space. There is a restored Apollo 12 spacecraft as part of the exhibit, which ran on less power than most coffee makers listed on Amazon. I’m not even sure we know how to go back to the moon, even with today’s technology. We’ve probably forgotten how. Our technological prowess was amazing before the dawn of the computer era. The Apollo missions showed that the speech was more than words. It showed America’s determination and ingenuity in a world of nuclear panic that I cannot begin to comprehend.

At the start of the exhibit, there is a picture of Jim Lovell as a young boy staring up at the stars. It’s a hologram over the man he one day becomes looking on at a rocket blazing skyward. Most know Lovell as the guy Tom Hanks portrayed in the movie Apollo 13. He’s a logical choice for a Chicago exhibit because of his Mid-West connections. He was born in Cleveland and grew up in Milwaukee. You can hear interviews of him describing his child hood and see his papers written at the naval academy on jet propulsion. Jim Lovell dreamed of becoming an astronaut and he never let go of it. Inspiration matters. In today’s age, we spend more time arguing on what people have and don’t have instead of taking on big challenges. I hope and expect more. I hope my kid does too. After seeing him look at the refurbished Apollo 12, I wish I had his enthusiasm. I hope he never loses it.