August 2012 was a month of reminders of our relationship with outer space and the potential for amazing new challenges in other worlds.
On Aug. 23, research was presented at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Beijing that 14 galaxies similar to ours have been found, with two duplicates of our Milky Way. This research was done by astronomers working with technology here on Earth. However, it is the combined efforts of all space scientists, engineers, and explorers that make these discoveries possible.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, the commander of Apollo 11, stepped out of the lunar module into a 200 degrees F. vacuum. He and Buzz Aldrin spent about two hours in their heavy, pressurized suits taking rock samples and snapping pictures on the moon. On August 25 this year, the man who took that "giant leap for mankind" passed away at the age of 82, and through his death we were made reminiscent of his remarkable life.
In addition to his moon mission, Neil Armstrong had been an X-15 rocket plane test pilot for NASA, a naval aviator in the Korean War, an aerospace engineering professor, and Commander of Gemini 8. Despite universal admiration and his numerous medals and awards, Neil Armstrong refused to be a celebrity. His mind and heart were dedicated to the science of aerospace, and in his words, "places to go beyond belief."
I wish Commander Armstrong could have been in the audience at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California on Aug. 28, only three days after his death, to hear musician will.i.am’s "Reach for the Stars" blasting 450 million miles to Earth from the rover (Curiosity) which was resting on the surface of Mars. This first interplanetary concert was designed to honour all past participants in the space programme and to inspire and encourage today’s science and technology students, some of whom will be the astronauts of tomorrow.
Some day, humankind will definitely leap again, leaving a footprint on another moon, another planet, another galaxy. It is in our nature to "reach for the stars."