Inspired by the Past

Not long ago, I took my two daughters out of school for the day and the three of us went on a field trip to Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. I made a deal with them: they could miss school for the entire day if they promised to listen to everything I told them, read everything I asked them to read, and answer questions at the end of the day. I wasn’t taking them out of school to ride simulators and eat freeze-dried ice cream; we were going in search of inspiration.

The idea was prompted by the arrival of Discovery (which I also took them out of school to watch). I was about the age of my youngest daughter when the Space Shuttle Columbia first launched on April 12, 1981, and now, thirty-one years later, we were witnessing the (hopefully temporary) end of manned space flight in the United States. It suddenly occurred to me that without adequate education, children today might never know that:

  • Putting astronauts into low Earth orbit was once considered almost routine (the Space Shuttle fleet flew a total of 135 missions);
  • Forty-three years ago — more than four years before I was even born — man first walked on the moon, accomplishing a feat that doesn’t seem even remotely possible in today’s economic and political climate;
  • As children, we frequently saw the Concorde — a supersonic transport jet capable of traveling at over Mach 2 — fly overhead as it landed or took off from Dulles airport, conveying passengers from New York to Paris in only 3.5 hours — over twice as fast as brand new passenger jets being built today.

While I recognize that there’s a lot of fantastic innovation going on right now, we also appear to be in an era when the best way to inspire future generations is to look to the past.


The retired Space Shuttle Discovery.


The retired Space Shuttle Discovery.


The retired Space Shuttle Discovery.


The nose of the Concorde.


The unmistakable delta-wing configuration of the Concorde.


The SR-71 Blackbird.


Probably the best view in the entire museum. The SR-71 Blackbird in the foreground, and the Space Shuttle Discovery in the background.


The top of the SR-71 Blackbird.


Some of the toys that inspired me as a child.

4 thoughts on “Inspired by the Past

  1. Great post, Christian!
    Loved the photos and agree that for spaceflight and supersonic travel, we have taken a step back.
    Also, even after all this time, nothing man-made looks as cool as an SR-71.


  2. I feel exactly the same way. As I was driving my daughter home from an appointment, we made a point of stopping on the side of road and waiting for the shuttle to fly overhead. She thought it was pretty cool, and I got to explain how this is the last “flight” the shuttle will take, and just how much the U.S. space program has help define my own sights on achieving what seems impossible.
    While my kids will have a field trip to Udvar Hazy, they generally won’t have any driving force to help them see what’s possible, and I love the idea of taking them once just for this purpose.


  3. I’ve taken my kids to the Houston Space Center numerous times, and it’s always been wonderful.
    Now, we get treated to a stupid wooden shuttle. It’s unbelievable, man. There are still lots of hard feelings about this in Houston. Why they chose NY over us is just unbelievable!
    I mean, it’s a 4 hour drive from New York to DC. That could be a field trip. Here in Houston, we have to drive at least 4 hours just to get anywhere, and it’s about an 8 hour drive to the nearest national park of any worth. But now we’re something like 20+ driving hours away from the nearest shuttle.


  4. Fantastic idea, and what a gread “Dad” thing to do! Kids today need to inspired, and to learn not just about how awesome our accomplishments have been but how much more we have to achieve! How much more THEY CAN achieve! It’s exciting. :)
    Great post, Christian


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