80 And Life To Go


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Octogenarians.”

Photo via the Houston Chronicle

John Houbolt turned 90 last year.

Which means, when I met him, he was in his 80s.

George Mueller turned 90 two years ago, which means he was also in his 80s the first time I talked to him. Chris Kraft was still in his early 80s when I first met him a few years ago.

Chances are, if you ran into John Houbolt somewhere, you wouldn’t know who he was. Heck, even given his name, you probably don’t know who he is. You may or may not know either of the other names.

But without John Houbolt, the United States may not have beat the Soviet Union to the moon. And the same may well be true for George Mueller and Chris Kraft.

On their Wikipedia pages, these men are history-shaping heroes. At Target, they’re the old men fumbling for change ahead of you in line.

Working on Homesteading Space really drove that home for me. I interviewed men whom I would not have given a second glance if I’d seen them in public, and yet who played key roles in shaping the American space program. And it made me aware that I had no clue who these people were. Would I get as frustrated with the guy who can’t figure out the self-checkout scanner buying groceries if I knew that he was like that?

And in Huntsville, that’s relevant to my world. These are my personal heroes. But the same is true anywhere, in other ways.

How would I respond to the person in front of me, if I knew he had accomplished more in his life than I ever will?

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