Monday, April 8, 2013

Jerry Ross - Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer (Perdue University Press)

Reading Spacewalker: My Journey In Space and faith as NASA’s Record Setting Frequent Flyer by U.S. Astronaut Jerry Ross, I find myself caught in a bizarre paradox of being excited and intrigued by his story, yet oddly saddened by this true American hero likely being all but unrecognizable accept for those who have not followed the NASA shuttle program. 

Growing up in the 1960s you couldn’t help but be enthralled by the daring, yet clearly intelligent and fit young men who where labeled as possessing the “right stuff.” A Gemini or Apollo launch was a cause to take a break from the day to day, and gather around the classroom television, usually a behemoth, black and white monster to watch the excitement. Kids could recite the names by heart and Walter Cronkite pontificated from the Cape, keeping us abreast of the latest from space.

Despite the amazing contributions that we enjoy as part of everyday life that can be traced to the innovation of Ross and his colleagues at NASA which he details early in the book, for whatever the reason, we lost the fascination with all things Astronaut. Our notice only seemed to be rekindled by loss; with the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

Even the engineering feat that is the International Space Station, in which Ross played a major role in the Earth bound development of tools and techniques utilized in the space builds, could not capture our collective imagination. Now like Ross, I fear that the mothballing of NASA due to our focus on dollars, rather than innovation, will completely damper the dream. This made all the more amazing by the billions of dollars of ongoing government waste on programs that haven’t contributed a whit to our lives.

Ross is credited with being among the most launched individuals in space flight; with seven take offs and landings to his credit and a record number of space walks, although that exact number remains a mystery even in this tale. Perhaps the greatest source of my consternation is that Ross spins not only an amazing story of his life as an Astronaut, but he captures the childlike purity of the dream of space flight, which has likely passed even for an above average, Midwestern boy. Hopefully this wonderful story will provide the spark to fuel a dream like the one Ross embodies.



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