Thought for the Week – 17 May 2019

When we are young we seem wonderfully oblivious to the challenges that life has to give us and have wonderfully bold and ambitious plans for our futures.  Some people dream of being in films or TV, becoming a doctor, a lawyer or a multitude of exciting things.  When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut.  Truth be told this is still my ambition but sadly age and the lack of appropriate sized space suits preclude me from this!

This week, the BBC released a new podcast called ’13 minutes to the moon’ to celebrate the first moon landing which took place 50 years ago.  As the name suggests, the programme focuses on the last 13 minutes leading up to the landing of Apollo 11 which was rife with crisis, danger and courage. During the descent, radio communications with the Earth broke down, the lunar module overshot its intended landing site and they were seconds from running out of fuel.

Listening to the podcast, I was fascinated by an interview with Stephen Bales.  He was 26, originally from a farm in Iowa and had joined NASA as a tour guide only a couple of years earlier.  He had shown passion for the space programme and when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July 1969, he was responsible for the guidance system.  Moments before the landing, a serious error appeared on the computer in Apollo 11.  The whole project, which had begun in 1962 when President John F Kennedy famously said “We choose to go to the moon,” was in jeopardy. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of people had been involved in the project which had cost over £200 billion.  Bales continued to watch the data, despite the spacecraft moving faster than it should have been, and made the judgment that it was safe to land. The decision came down to one person and the rest, as they say, is history.

As we get older we tend to set aside ambitions that inspired us when we were young.  Listening to Stephen speak with enormous passion and energy 50 years on reminded me that we all owe it to ourselves to not let go of our dreams and ambitions lightly.  Whatever your age, don’t be afraid to ‘dream big’.  Now how do I get in touch with NASA?

Dr Enos, Deputy Head (Academic)