By Kenneth Rudich
Let’s go on a brief journey back in time to connect some dots.
During the height of the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, a space race erupted when the Soviets surprised the world by being the first to successfully launch a satellite into orbit around the earth in 1957, named Sputnik 1. It was especially unsettling for the U.S. to be upstaged in such a big way by its number one foe and communist threat. The gnawing impact on national pride left the country in a kind of lingering funk, and it was having a difficult time trying to shake it.
Shortly after becoming President in 1960, John Kennedy sensed the need for trying to pull the nation out from under this cloud. Knowing it would require something more grand and awe-inspiring than what the Soviet Union had already achieved, he set forth the lofty ambition in 1961 to put an American on the moon by the close of the decade.
It was an unexpected declaration – a bold, daring and courageous thing to say aloud for the whole world to hear.
A Cold War Hero
Part of what made the President’s announcement so astonishing is that the first U.S. manned mission into space with Alan Shepard had taken place only 20 days earlier. For this mission, we’re talking about a short 15 minute flight, enough to barely enter space and then return safely back to earth.
While it was a far cry from reaching the moon, it nonetheless counted as a big step forward. The successful mission gave the president every reason to believe in the skills and abilities of the people who made it possible.
One such person was an African-American named Katherine Johnson. Watch the video to learn about her important contribution.
The Die was Cast for All
Katherine Johnson helped cast the die for future generations of American astronauts.
And since 1983, that list has grown to include 14 African-Americans who’ve also flown into space. For them, the legacy of Katherine Johnson provided the opportunity to have the dream of a lifetime come true.
One of those astronauts was Mae Jemison. Watch the video for her story.
Black History Month Vivacity
When you connect the dots from past to present, across generations, it creates a revealing trajectory. In this instance, it’s a very good one at that.
Here’s to hoping for more of the same from people in all walks of life!