My childhood dream came true, but now I have a new one. I dream that some of these young people, while they're out there clicking around, maybe they'll find out about this book and find a way to get their hands on it - and when they do, they'll know that even if you're a skinny kid from Long Island who's scared of heights, if you dream of walking among the stars you can do it. They'll know that finding a purpose, being dedicated to the service of others and to a calling higher than yourself, that is what's truly important in life. They'll be able to close their eyes and imagine what it's like in space, and when they open them again, they'll look up at the sun and the moon and the Milky Way and see them with the sense of awe and wonder that they deserve.And those young boys and girls, whatever their space dream is, they'll go for it. Whatever hurdles are in their way, they'll get past them. When they fall down, they'll get back up. They'll keep going and going, working harder and harder and running faster and faster until one day, before they know it, they'll find themselves flying through the air. The hand of a giant science fiction monster will reach down and grab them by the chest and hurl them up and up and up, out to the furthest limits of the human imagination, where they'll take the next giant leap of the greatest adventure mankind has ever known.
The camaraderie that firefighters have, that brotherhood that forms among them - my father was a part of that, and it came from having a shared sense of purpose. He told me that whatever you do in life, it can't just be about making money. It's important that you work to make the world a better place, that you help improve the lives of the people around you.
I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of something that meaningful. I wanted to have something I was so passionate about that I'd be willing to risk everything for it. I wanted to know that if I ever got killed, I got killed doing something worthwhile. The kid who looked up at the moon and wasn't afraid to dream - I decided that part of me deserved a chance. I sat there in that reception area, watching the crash footage play over and over again on the television, and that was when it hit home for me: you only have one life. You have to spend it doing something that matters.
My favorite lecturer was Alan Bean, who flew on Apollo 12 and is one of the twelve guys who walked on the moon. After retiring from NASA, he became a painter. Alan's lecture was called The Art of Space Exploration. He talked about the mistakes he'd made and how he learned to fix them. One lesson that took him a while to learn was that at a place like NASA you can only have an effect on certain things. You can't control who likes you. You can't control who gets assigned to flights or what NASA's budget is going to be next year. If you get caught up worrying about things you can't control, you'll drive yourself nuts. It's better to focus on the things right in front of you. Identify the places where you can have a positive impact. Concentrate there and let the rest take care of itself. The last thing Alan said to us was 'What most people want in life is to do something great. That doesn't happen often. Don't take it for granted. Don't be blasé about it. And don't blow it. A lot of times, believe it or not, people blow it.
I think he was trying to tell us that life is not about achieving one great thing, because once that thing is over, life keeps going. What motivates you then? The important thing is having a passion, something you love doing, and the greatest joy in the world is that you get to wake up every day and do it.
The important thing in life is having a passion, something you really love doing, and you take joy in the fact that you get to wake up every day and do it.
If you work hard and get help from good friends, together you can overcome almost any challenge, no matter how great.
It was one of those perfect nights, listening to the waves crash, feeling the warm summer breeze, watching the sun set over the ocean as the moon rose up in the sky. I looked out over the cliffs and I thought about the explorers who had sailed from places like this, what they'd accomplished, mapping the unknown world, charting our place in the universe. How many times had they failed and fallen down only to get back up and try again? How many times had they sailed out on an impossible voyage and made a successful return home? I sat there with Carola looking out over the endless horizon. It was strange, but I felt like everything was going to be okay. The end of my story was not yet written, and I still had the chance to make it extraordinary.