When I first married, right after graduation from college with a degree in engineering, I received some mail from NASA. They were looking for candidates for the shuttle program—for "shuttle specialists." Wow! I had always dreamed of space travel and star-watching from above the earth! However, I was newly married and moving in a different direction with my life, and I was happy to be where I was. But the fascination with space and space travel was never far from my mind.
Years later, we began homeschooling, and we were blessed to be living on the Space Coast of Florida, just south of Cape Canaveral. One of the first unit studies that I wrote for our crew was Space; I figured that even if I really messed up, NASA was right up the road and they could fill in the blanks! ☺
We spent ten years there and loved every launch and every moment of space news and space talk. The kids grew up thinking that the swing set was MADE for watching space shuttle launches, and that everyone in the world watched launches with the same enthusiasm and excitement. Whenever we could, we would get launch passes to go wait with the crowds for the launches, bringing blankets and picnic baskets and binoculars.
One of the best blessings from our frequent visits to the Cape came from the astronauts themselves—yes, the men and women who live, breathe, eat, and sleep their dreams of going to space. They devote much of their time to their space training and their own families, but they do make a special effort to share their stories and dreams with children of all ages. They always take time to reach out to children, and what a legacy of influence they have left us!
We met many of the astronauts, attended their presentations, watched home movies of their childhoods, and heard them share some of their own experiences of growing up. We always came away so fired up about space and each child's opportunity to follow his or her dreams. These astronauts demonstrated their commitment and love of their work in all that they did, and I am so thankful that they shared this with children.
You see, they very carefully shared their own stories, with the emphasis on "whatever your dream is—follow it!" They stressed the importance of doing your best, studying hard, and not giving up, demonstrating the meaning of commitment by their own efforts. Our children have autographs of many astronauts, but what they hold in their hearts are the astronauts' stories, hopes, and words of encouragement.
I thank God for our astronauts—for those that we have lost and for those that will now carry on the adventure. They will motivate unknown numbers of children (and many adults) to follow their dreams and strive to do their best, and somehow, coming from these people who know what it means to do just this—it is a priceless gift, indeed.