Monday, November 18, 2013. What a day huh? I mean today’s the day. Today is it. November 18, 2013, a Monday, only get’s one shot to happen. One shot to be a day. That’s it. Then it’s gone. You could say the lifespan of a day is…well a day. And how that day is remembered depends on a large number of things. It is remembered largely based on what events take place. The thing is that no matter what there is a certain amount of days that we all get to make events take place to be remembered by everyone who was there on that day. For people to remember where they were when…or for people to smile when they hear the date, or maybe to cry. Some days are meant to be days of mourning or tragedy, some days are meant to be days of joy and elation. You and I don’t know what today is supposed to be. Not yet. But maybe someone will get a sudden urge and realize out of nowhere that today is supposed to be their day, and they go and they seize the day, carpe diem! And maybe your day is tomorrow.
Today, Monday the 18th day of November in the year 2013, I watched an Atlas V missile launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, carrying the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Exploration, or MAVEN spacecraft into the sky, beyond our earth’s atmosphere, and on it’s way to our neighboring planet we call Mars. I watched it on my phone, sitting in my spacecraft attitude dynamics class. I wasn’t alone in viewing it. At least one other person I can assure you with %100 confidence also viewed the lift off. But while I was sitting there watching the phallic shaped rocket power through the atmosphere, it occurred to me that today, is a pretty important day for a few hundred people working for NASA and the United Launch Alliance, and all I’m going to remember of it is a little screen during a lecture I was supposed to be paying attention to. And something as technologically advanced as sending a machine to another planet, a different world than the one we are all living on, has become something that isn’t really important save for the minuscule number of human beings that have worked hard for months, even years to ensure that this day went smoothly, and according to plan. They have been waiting for this day for a long time. Their lives have all been counting down to this Monday. And this Monday, November 18th, has been in turn awaiting them, because surely it knew they were coming, and they had been planning for it. This day gave those men and women their best, and they returned the effort, with the very best of their own. When many extraordinary days are strung together, extraordinary things can happen.
There were two thousand nine hundred and eighty three days between when John F Kennedy said before congress we would go to the moon, and when his dreams and goals for this nation were fulfilled. For those who want to check my arithmetic please remember the president also said “and return him safely to the earth.” In the first human project of interplanetary scale, each one of those days was something extraordinary. There were days of mourning and tragedy, that is certain, however there were also days of elation and jubilee. Ultimately more of the latter than the former, at least for our nation, which resulted in one of the greatest feats that man has ever accomplished. It took many days. And nights. But a lot of those days would have otherwise been ordinary days save for that big day at the end, where it all came together.
It’s a little bit of a sad thing when you think about it. Because a day where we send something to another planet would have been something of an amazing day 60 years ago. But today, in a place where space geeks flock, spacecraft attitude and dynamics class, no one even blinked an eye. Except for the other guy also watching it on his iPhone. Across the nation this day was a day of mourning for some across the mid-west in the wake of several severe storms and tornadoes. In Florida it was a day of hard work, stress, and relaxation for some engineers on the space coast. I can’t even speculate what Monday, November 18th, 2013, means to each of the 7 billion people that call this planet, this speck in the universe their home. It could have meant any number of things to any number of people. Maybe it will be one of those days that’s a stepping stone to a bigger day to come in the future. The sad part is I feel that we are slipping into a lull where ordinary days are acceptable. There’s a notion of, well, there is always tomorrow. And we’ve gone from a nation that could go from the earth to the moon in 2,983 days, to a nation that can’t build a website in 1,289 days. I’ll concede you that going to the moon is harder than building a website but…America used to be better than this. But it’s not all doom and gloom, the power to make the days more incredible lies in the hands of whoever is reading this right now. Make today a great day in the history of your life. Better yet, make it a great day in the history of the lives of others. Because there’s only one today. Go get it. Thanks for reading, see you soon.