Posted by: COSI | April 15, 2011

Shuttle Inspiration & Disappointments

I have a number of friends in the field who were personally disappointed by the announcement of NASA as to what museums will host the shuttles as they retire from service—they all had worked so hard to make a case for a shuttle to take residence at their musuem.  I have one colleague, Jeff Rudolph, at the California Science Center, who has to be elated as he was the only non-federal affiliated science museum to be awarded a shuttle.

I imagine and hope that the shuttles will be as inspirational to this and future generations as the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules were to generations starting with mine.  I’ve stood under a shuttle in a special behind-the-scenes opportunity I was blessed with at Cape Canaveral –the power of looking up close at the “real thing” was as thrilling to me as an adult as seeing a Mercury space capsule for the first time as a teen.

I’ve learned over the years to value what I call the “power of real” –seeing the real object and understand its story or talk with the real person who can share their personal history and life’s journey and passions.  Standing next to an early space capsule that our pioneer astronauts traveled in brought back the memories of listening and reading intently about the journeys, challenges, and triumphs as they represented the best of what humans could do technologically and in explorer spirit.

Seeing the Mercury capsule (such as we have at COSI) and actually trying to squeeze into one as I was able to do at Teacher Space Camp in Huntsville brought to life John Glenn’s statement that he felt more like he was wearing the capsule than sitting in it—imagining the challenge as I know him now as a relatively big man and the small space you can see peering into COSI’s shuttle with a mock-up of Senator Glenn squeezed into it.

I can’t wait for the opportunity to walk through a shuttle and take the stories I’ve heard for so many years and envision them literally in physical context and in front of and around me.  I hope the power of the inspiration of the American “can-do spirit” with audacious goals embodied in the shuttles can be helped to stay alive and well.  They should move an connect emotionally with millions at the new opportunities we’ll have to get up close and personal with the shuttles and their stories—like those of my COSI CEO predecessor, Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space.

I trust that Jeff and his team at the California Science Center and the other sites will take full advantage of their tremendous gifts and opportunity for stewardship of some of our countries most treasured objects with the rich, and sometimes tragic stories, behind them.

And I hope that there will be another generation soon of space vehicles to create their own stories of human space exploration to inspire another set of generations through their symbolic stretch of human reach and spirit.  We can’t afford to lose those points of inspiration that drive our young people (of all ages) forward as a society and as humans.



  1. It is kind of sad to see the day of the shuttle end. Space was one of the things that always drove me to science.

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