I remember being rousted out of bed by my father fifty years ago today. I had just been re-united with him in Oklahoma from Punjab, India. Of all the experiences in this new land, that morning is etched into my brain. Here was a man on a grainy black and white video image stepping onto the moon, where no one had ever gone before.
I was an explorer of a new world, too. A little four year old boy in a strange land. When I arrived a few months earlier, I paused on the way to my father’s door to touch the white fluffy stuff on the ground. It was cold. Snow! An avalanche of new experiences followed like learning English, making friends with a boy with blonde hair, catching lizards, and the joys of pecan pie.
Space and the moon continued to be an inspiration through my life.
Later, in middle school, I learned about European explorers and fantasized about seeing a land and being the first in our recorded history. What was the opportunity to do that now? Space was the obvious answer.
In college, as I struggle with my classes and questioned whether to continue in engineering, I looked up and saw a poster of the space shuttle. If I wanted to be a space pioneer, an engineering degree was a path.
After college, I was not happy with the job options I had – one offer from the Tennessee Valley Authority. I read an article about the design of a space station in Virginia. I decided I would move there and try to get a job working on space station. It took my several years but I did land that job and helped design the information systems on the space station.
Decades later when I heard about the success of Bert Rutan’s Scale Composites and Branson’s Virgin Galactic, I realized I could fulfill a dream of going into space. I was told I made the fastest decision of any Virgin Galactic “founder” — I applied on a Friday and signed up on a Monday. Despite being behind schedule by about ten years, I am still looking forward to that experience.
Today, as I hike in Armstrong park in California (the name is coincidence but still…), I’ll be thinking about that small step for a man. It inspired a four year old immigrant boy in Oklahoma for a lifetime. Along with the rest of the world, I follow in that foot step.