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"Hidden Figures" and "First Man" were arguably the most inspirational space-themed movies of the last several years. Both, though, had to reach back to the glory days of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. The faces of my children after watching these movies was the surest sign of a missed opportunity, of a generation raised without a Moonshot.
Back on July 20, 1969, around the globe, millions sat glued to their black-and-white television sets, waiting for history to be made. "Houston, Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed" marked not just a successful Moon landing but much more. It was the culmination of a Moonshot begun with John F. Kennedy's famous speech in 1962, an endeavor that set the U.S.'s sights on winning the space race. Fifty years on, I believe the United States needs another "Moonshot," a seemingly impossible task that rallies everyone from engineers and scientists to teachers and generations of students toward that goal. This Moonshot is necessary not because more flags need to be planted and more footsteps left behind on a distant world, but because of the need to inspire present and future generations as mine was with the advent of the Space Age.
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The Apollo program, the Moonshot of my generation, inspired me to earn a Ph.D. in physics and carry out several decades of research in space science, with an ever-increasing passion for teaching. Now, each time I step into my astronomy classroom, it's my own sense of wonder, the sense of exploration I felt as a child, that I try to instill in my students.
At four years of age and living in Tehran, Iran, I wasn't old enough to stay up late to watch the first Moon landing, as it occurred just before midnight, local time. But I was old enough to remember the craze...
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