This article appeared in the April 06, 2023 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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NASA chooses its first pioneers for a new age

Michael Wyke/AP
From left, Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman, and Christina Hammock Koch celebrate onstage as they are announced as the Artemis II crew during a NASA ceremony, April 3, 2023, in Houston.

In 1968, humanity stood on the cusp of a new age. Within a year, two men would walk on the moon. But as Apollo 8 wheeled around the moon – the first crewed flight to orbit our cosmic neighbor – the United States was in disarray. The Vietnam War raged. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. Riots swept the nation. 

The U.S. Information Agency concluded that many worldwide questioned “whether the vaunted American system might be on the verge of decay and disintegration.”  

This week, NASA announced the astronauts who will in some ways reprise Apollo 8. Next year, the crew of Artemis II will go to the moon but not land on it, preparing for further exploration in years to come – an orbiting space station and a base camp near the south pole.

This, too, is the cusp of a new age – a first practical step to living on other worlds. All amid the context of a nation in turmoil. But on Christmas Eve in 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 beamed back a message of goodwill heard by a billion people – a quarter of everyone on the planet. Even communist Cuba listened in. Then the astronauts returned with the first photo of Earth from a distance – the iconic blue marble of “Earthrise,” which kindled a deeper appreciation of our miraculous home and inspired a nascent environmental movement.

One of the new Artemis II astronauts, Victor Glover, served on the International Space Station in 2020 and 2021. Often, the crew would sit in the window and talk. “All of us wanted fellowship in the evening [after] being alone and working hard all day long,” he said at a talk at a church in Wharton, Texas, last year. “And that human desire to be together, to be with our brothers and sisters, is a thing that I think about all the time.”

Now, as in 1968, the marvels of space – of ingenuity and childlike awe – can help us out of ourselves somewhat, to hold home and humanity just a little bit dearer.

This article appeared in the April 06, 2023 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/06 edition
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