I Look At a Lot of Articles to find just the right mix for each weekly This is True column. Naturally, the vast majority are discarded, and I have to tell you about one that didn’t make the cut. It has a lot to do with “cognitive processes” …aka thinking.
Florida’s (you know there’s trouble right there, don’t you?) Bradenton Herald newspaper last Thursday ran an article about an Apollo astronaut’s family letting a local museum display a family treasure: the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award honoring Jim Irwin, the lunar module pilot for Apollo 15.
Atop that award is a small piece of moon rock embedded in Lucite, which the reporter described as “clear plastic-like protection,” but that’s not the weird part.
It’s not even that the Irwin family didn’t have a TV during the mission, and had to borrow one to watch dad drive the first lunar rover on the moon. That doesn’t require any advanced mental processes.
Nor that Mary Ellen Irwin-Vickers said that “No, I wasn’t afraid” for her husband’s life on the mission — “Normal doesn’t exist except on your dryer.” Uh, OK… maybe she needs a little more cognitive development, but that’s not the point either.
No, it’s this bit from the article: “While the family wasn’t able to go along on the mission….”
Wait. In the struggle to get to the moon, perhaps the biggest scientific rivalry in world history, NASA didn’t make room for every astronaut’s wife and children? Not even in economy?!
The Irwins only had five kids! They were young, and wouldn’t take that much room.
But that’s how utterly stupid that the average American has become — at least in the eyes of newspaper reporters. We have to be told that the astronauts can’t take their wives and children along with them to the moon. And maybe reporter James A. Jones Jr. is correct in what he says with this: that we are that stupid these days. We are becoming a nation of gibbering obliviots.
But there is a way to counter our lack of mental activity. What I say: we must teach our kids how to think, or they grow into adults who can’t.
Not only does society absolutely depend on the ability to think, it’s becoming an issue of national security. Obliviots cannot lead us to any semblance of “greatness.” Only thinkers can. Do you think China and Russia are making sure their children grow up ignorant, and without the ability to work on and correct the problems they face?
The men and women who got us to the moon — white, Black, Asian, and other — want us to stand on their shoulders, not cower in their shadows.
Turning In His Grave
Col. Irwin was the first of the 12 men who walked on the moon to die …from a heart attack on August 8, 1991 — 30 years ago today — in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was 61, and is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
Just four of the 12 are still alive as of this writing: Buzz Aldrin, 91 (Apollo 11); David Scott, 89 (Apollo 15); Charles Duke, 85 (Apollo 16); and Harrison Schmitt, 86 (Apollo 17).
Irwin had previously survived cardiac arrest, also in Colorado Springs, in June 1986, and was saved by EMS medics to live another five-plus years. He wasn’t so lucky the next time.
NASA said in 1991 that in pre-flight medical exams, doctors noted Irwin was “prone to slight uneven heartbeats on occasion after exercise,” according to his New York Times obit. Flight surgeons had even observed him having a cardiac arrhythmia (bigeminy) during his Apollo flight.
Determination, purpose, and thinking got us to the moon. It’s past time for the U.S. to go back to those qualities.
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The NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award was presented to his family in 2004.
The Bradenton Herald article: A Piece of Apollo Space History Comes to the Bishop from the Family of an Astronaut, 5 August 2021.
- One Small Step for [a] Man — What if the moon landing failed?, and
- The Giant Leap for Mankind — podcast (transcript on page) follow-on.
- Dinner with Neil Armstrong — My report on his last public appearance.
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