We waved and screamed as the Astrovan (carrying the astronaut crew to the shuttle Endeavour) drove past our NASA Tweetup group yesterday. Moments later, our hearts fell when we witnessed the first-ever Astrovan turn-around as the launch was “scrubbed”, or delayed, and the astronauts headed back to quarantine to wait for the next launch attempt. Putting on brave smiles, we trudged back to our tent. Everyone was sad, but one thing we learned at the tweetup is that NASA always puts safety first, and for good reason.
Astronauts. Absolutely nothing comes before astronaut safety. Not a presidential visit, not millions of viewers, not politics…nothing. So, when an Auxiliary Power Unit heater didn’t seem to be working correctly, they delayed the launch. I was astonished at the overwhelming pride and sense of responsiblity that the NASA employees who spoke to us expressed for each mission and every human life that we send into space.
The astronauts who spoke to our group were amazing, accomplished individuals with a unified message: be curious, work hard in school, and follow your dreams. Any kid who wants to be an astronaut has that potential. And parents…it’s our job to fan that creative, imaginative, curious spark in our kids, whether it’s by letting them bang on some pans (Astronaut Leland Melvin) to learn about sound, or simply to encourage them to do something that might seem out of reach. (NASA Astronaut Ricky Arnold is a teacher, not a military man.)