(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – You want to know why this is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth?
Let me tell you a story.
On May 25, 1965, President John F. Kennedy told a joint session of Congress, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
From then until July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the Sea of Tranquility and Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind, we spent about a billion dollars on exactly what government is supposed to do—that is, what citizens cannot do for themselves.
Nice stunt, you say?
Well, last week, a friend of mine asked me to shoot some video for him. (In another life I worked for a network news division, as our regular readers may know.)
Rick Riley manufactures prosthetic devices for amputees. He is an amputee himself, although you would never know it.
The footage he asked me to shoot was of a woman who had all four of her limbs amputated getting new feet. These were special feet, manufactured by a company founded by a scientist from MIT. They’re battery powered and that allowed this woman to walk as normally as you and I.
If you think that billion dollars to send a man to the moon and back was wasted, you should have seen the look on this woman’s face when they powered up the feet and she started walking up and down stairs, up and down a ramp and practically running across the floor. It was pure $6-Million Man stuff.
And in case you haven’t yet made the connection between what Neil Armstrong did in 1969 and what this woman did last week, let me draw you a picture.
Every bit of the technology in those bionic feet became feasible because of the space program.
We learned about automation, microprocessors, servo-motors and high tensile materials because NASA needed experts in those fields to come through for them so we could land on the moon. It was the biggest generator of pure research ever.
And almost 51 years after President Kennedy committed the nation to go to the moon, Lynn, who lost ALL FOUR limbs can walk, run and jump because of research, which started during the space program.
I wish everybody who is reading this today could have been there—not only to see the expression onLynn’s face but to see the expression of the faces of the folks who were there. It was every bit as exciting as the day we watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren walk on the moon. In fact, there was the same electricity as in the Johnson Space Center mission control during a mission.
If you think that America has lost its way, that somehow this nation can’t get things done anymore, I have only to introduce you to Lynn and Rick.
By the way, this stuff isn’t cheap. Lynn’s new feet come at a cost of about $150,000. On the other hand, like most technology, as it’s deployed, the price will come down. And when you take a product created from pure research and begin to commercialize it, that’s when the best of our free enterprise system is on display.
I’m not trying to politicize an amazing piece of technology. But this past week, the Space Shuttle Discovery—which was designed to make 100 flights was flown to its final resting place in a museum at Dulles Airport after only 33 flights, leaving our only route in space through Russian launches.
The only way I can describe the enormity of what happened in that room is to compare it to an event that everybody past a certain age understands.
When they powered up Lynn’s new feet, it was every bit as awesome as the day we landed two men on the moon.
Lynnshould be a poster girl for what makes this nation the greatest nation on the face of the earth. Not only can she engage you in a foot race, but that technology will be available to anybody else in the same situation because once is never enough. Talk about one giant leap for mankind.
Try that in China.