035: To Boldly Go

Uncommon Sense: the This is True Podcast show

Summary: In This Episode: To Boldly Go? No, this isn’t about Star Trek, but rather something even better: real life. This is the story of a 9-year-old with Uncommon Sense who was inspired to reach for the stars — and years later inspired a bunch of other kids growing up behind him.<br> <br> <a class="twitter-share-button" href="https://twitter.com/share?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Tweet</a><br> <a href="#transcript">Jump to Transcript</a><br> <a href="https://thisistrue.com/category/podcasts/">How to Subscribe and List of All Episodes</a><br> Show Notes<br> <br> * Hadfield’s quotes are from his book <a href="http://hop2.cc/hadfield">An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth — What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything</a>.<br> * My blog post about Hadfield’s video and book is <a href="https://thisistrue.com/ground_control_to_major_tom/">Ground Control to Major Tom</a>.<br> <br> <a name="transcript"></a><br> Transcript<br> Welcome to Uncommon Sense. I’m Randy Cassingham.<br> What were you doing when you were 9 years old? I’d like to tell you about a guy who changed his life when he was 9. At the time, I was 10, and we saw the same thing happen. We were both inspired by what we saw, even if we took different paths. And by the way, his path was much more impossible than mine.<br> When Chris was 9, he and his family were at their island summer cottage. They didn’t have a TV set, so when there was something very special coming on, the neighbors invited them in. Chris remembers it with crystal clarity.<br> He said it wasn’t just his family and the neighbors: a lot of folks on this island getaway were there, jamming the living room to watch history being made on TV.<br> Chris said he and his brother, Dave, were together as they watched a grainy low-resolution black and white image of a man climbing down a ladder, and then stepping foot on the moon. It was July 20th, 1969.<br> Despite that low quality image, Chris said much more recently, “I knew exactly what we were seeing: the impossible, made possible.” When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went back into their lunar module after their “impossible” moon walk, Chris and his brother walked back to their own cottage.<br> “I looked up at the moon,” Chris said. “It was no longer a distant, unknowable orb but a place where people walked, talked, worked, and even slept. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to follow in the footsteps so boldly imprinted just moments before. … I knew, with absolute clarity, that I wanted to be an astronaut.”<br> Yeah, well, so did you, probably, if you remember that day. What kid didn’t? But Chris had a barrier to his dream: he was Canadian, and Canada didn’t have a space program. They didn’t have astronauts, and there was no path for a Canadian to become an astronaut. So, Chris said, he “knew, as did every kid in Canada, that it was impossible. Astronauts were American. NASA only accepted applications from U.S. citizens.”<br> On the other hand what did “impossible” mean anymore: he had just witnessed the impossible live on TV. “Neil Armstrong hadn’t let that stop him,” he reasoned. “Maybe someday it would be possible for me to go,” he said, “and if that day ever came, I wanted to be ready.”<br> And that’s what set Chris apart from most of the other kids who watched the moon walk that night. There was no path for him to become an astronaut, so, he said, “I had to imagine what an astronaut might do if he were 9 years old, then do the exact same thing. I could get started immediately.