President Richard Nixon, on 20th July 1969:
Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth. For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one, one in their pride of what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.
Don’t forget that there is another Shuttle Mission in progress at the moment: STS116. I’ve been listening to the cockpit communications this afternoon, which (as I have mentioned before) I find quite medative.
It might be a cliche to draw attention to the diversity of the shuttle crews (much was made of the fact that the ill-fated Columbia crew included an Indian and Israeli astronauts). To point out that this person is a woman, or that person is black, seems an odd thing to do when they are in orbit, hundreds of miles above the earth.
But, when we continue to see so many examples of intolerance and racism in the world, I think it is worth re-emphasising, and celebrating the equality of race, gender and religion we see aboard the space shuttles. These people, the vanguard of human exploration of space, are drawn exclusively from the group of those who have transcended prejudice and tribalism to become representatives of, simply, humanity. Do you suppose someone with Ahmedinejad’s world-view could muster the attitude of co-operation necessary to explore the heavens?