Brady Howell Memorial Address
Remarks by Administrator O'Keefe at Brigham Young University-Idaho
Thank you very much President Bednar (President David Bednar) for that very gracious introduction and good afternoon everyone.
I am delighted to be here for such an important occasion and honored to be a part of the Brady K. Howell Lecture Series.
As you know, by reading the papers or watching TV, this is a very busy time for NASA these days. And with Hurricane Isabel bearing down on Washington, it was great to get outside of Washington right now. So having just managed to escape that by a mater of hours, I can't tell you how delighted I am to be here. We're on our way to Houston afterwards to visit with the Columbia families as well. So this is a good opportunity to be able to accomplish all of that, and by God's grace we'll be able to avoid the weather conditions that would have otherwise impeded it.
Notwithstanding those challenges, I was determined to come here today with Brady's lovely wife Liz to help honor one of the finest public servants I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Brady Howell was someone that I would really encourage you to get to know about. If any of us, if collectively all of us, could be as driven as he was to public service this would be a substantially better country to live in.
I am particularly happy that so many members of Brady's family could be with us today as well to share this special occasion. This place of learning and growth is, of course, very meaningful to the entire Howell family.
Today it is my purpose to talk you about people in public life who are motivated to do amazing things. In the case of my Agency, these are the dedicated scientists, engineers and astronauts, like Bill Readdy who is here with us today, who are helping to pioneer the space frontier on our behalf as we enter the second century of flight.
They are remarkable people in the NASA family, to be sure. Yet as much as they never cease to impress me, when I think about the tremendous spirit that animated the life of Brady Howell, the phrase some may equal, none excel comes to mind.
Great lives are indeed defined by great purposes. Brady's great purpose was his deep and abiding commitment to public service.
Brady was a graduate student of mine when I had a teaching position at Syracuse University a few years ago. He was everything that I know your faculty members and administrators expect from an alumnus of this great institution of higher learning. So the heat is already on you from all the faculty and administration, I'm sure, to be like Brady: smart, hard working, and devoutly committed to your faith. He was not only a wonderful student, I'm proud to say he was my friend.
His dream at the time when he was a graduate student and a graduate assistant to me was to become a Presidential Management Intern and to focus on our Nation's security interests. I personally was a beneficiary of the Presidential Management Intern Program, having worked as one about 25 years ago after I left graduate school. And so I actively encouraged Brady to take part in this public service opportunity as a way to expand his interest in contributing even more to public service.
This particular program provides opportunities for young men and women to get valuable experience in federal service after a rigorous selection process for which thousands apply and very few are selected to participate in a variety of high-visibility and high responsibility jobs.
PMI's typically obtain a broad range of experiences across the federal expanse during their two years of intern activity. It's an opportunity to pack into a very short period of time some extraordinary perceptions of how the process may work that can be then applied to much greater gain in a much more rapid clip, on behalf of all Americans. And in this regard, this was a program he aspired to and excelled at doing. So a kid who grew up right around the corner here in Sugar City, Idaho suddenly found himself in this capacity doing an outstanding job.
Well, not only did Brady make the grade of admission for the PMI program with flying colors, he secured an assignment that he thought was the absolute, number one, top choice that he could ever receive, a posting at the Pentagon. It was there that he worked for the Chief of Naval Operations as a civilian naval intelligence watch analyst. Having previously served as the naval secretary for the last President George Bush--President Bush 41--certainly I thought this was the ultimate opportunity for him, and he made the most of it.
In a twist of fate that I still find difficult to fathom, Brady was moved into the newly renovated section of the Pentagon, a few days prior to September 11th, 2001. It was there the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:41 a.m., taking Brady's life along with the lives of 183 other American heroes.
As much as we wish that Brady's posting was at a safer place that day, it is a great comfort to all of us that he had achieved his heartfelt ambition to be in a position to serve his fellow Americans.
Now, after 9/11, I thought to myself I wish I had encouraged him as part of the Presidential Management Internship Program to go to work at the Small Business Administration or Economic Development Administration, or anywhere, anywhere, but where he wanted to go. And I can't count the number of his classmates at Syracuse University who told me thereafter that it wouldn't have mattered if I had told him to go elsewhere, because that is where he wanted to be. He was really committed to this particular opportunity, no question that he did a superb job at it, and indeed I think that's a legacy that will carry on for a long time.
Brady's story carries the concept of inspiration to new heights, but a story I think is equally impressive is that of Liz Howell.
In life's journey there are a few special people you come across who in the face of tragedy are able to tap into some deep unseen reservoir of courage and dignity, and through their sterling example provide comfort and inspiration to everyone around them.
Liz Howell is one such person, an individual of extraordinary faith and character.
After the loss of her husband, Liz channeled her grief into positive action. On her own she went to the Pentagon several times to talk with and encourage the construction crews working there to rebuild the Outer Ring.
A year ago, Washington Post reporter Steve Vogel wrote about that Pentagon rebuilding process, and described one of the construction crew meetings that Liz attended. "Your work is doing more than healing the scars of the building," she told the workers. "You're helping the survivors and families heal their scars." The workers gave Liz her own hardhat, safety glasses and "Let's Roll" jacket, so she could come back any time she wanted. In this environment where you have to have 23 ID's and take your shoes off to get through metal detectors, she can go anywhere she wants over there ... it's unbelievable. In June, when the final limestone was placed on the Pentagon's exterior, she set the next-to-last-piece in place, appropriately and fittingly so.
This was not the only time that Liz represented the families of the 9/11 victims with dignity and grace. On December 21, 2001 she had the honor of carrying the Olympic torch and handing the torch to President Bush at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. I'm pleased to say that later that day, that same day, the President signed the appointment order confirming me as the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Two pretty remarkable things in my view. I think mine was the accident.
Now later, Liz carried the United States placard during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Following the White House event she wrote "there is no more fitting symbol of hope than the Olympic flame. The flame shines brightly and symbolizes purity, unity through diversity, the endeavor for perfection, and the struggle for inner victory. That is why I agreed to participate in the Olympic torch relay. Commemorating the sacrifice and other victims causes my heart to swell with tremendous feelings of comfort and strength. I have hope that a lot of good things are still to come. That's what sustains me." Very inspiring words, Liz.
We had a chat on the plane on the way out here today and Liz told me she spent the second anniversary of September 11th privately in dealing with the pain, even now, two years later, but also drawing from it a renewed zeal for life. Her commentary spoke volumes about that. That is what your commitment is Liz, and it's inspiring to all of us.
Friends, the inspiring example of Liz Howell is one that I have taken to heart many times since the morning of February 1st.
That morning, I joined friends and family members at our Space Shuttle landing facility in Florida, as we waited to give the seven heroic Columbia space explorers a welcoming hug on their return to the good Earth following their remarkable, unbelievably 16 day mission of exploration and discovery. A mere 15 minutes before they were scheduled home, instead God brought the crewmembers into his loving embrace.
In the days and weeks that followed the tragic loss of the Columbia crew, our entire Nation saw the same strength of character and perseverance that Liz Howell displayed demonstrated by the Columbia astronauts' family members. They are obviously cut from the same cloth.
Indeed, it was just a little over one month ago that the family members demonstrated an incredible spirit of exploration and discovery in their own right as they joined astronaut Scott Parazynski in climbing to the top of the recently named Columbia Point, a prominent vista on Colorado's Kit Carson Mountain that now honors the memory of the Columbia STS-107 crew.
The Columbia crew was as fine a collection of space explorers that has ever been assembled. In their mission dedicated to life and physical science research, commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, and mission specialists Mike Anderson, Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon worked tirelessly and joyfully on a wide range of experiments.
These experiments had objectives as diverse as fighting cancer, improving crop yields, developing fire-suppression techniques, building earthquake resistant buildings and understanding the effects of dust storms on the weather. This was a wide range of experiments that could only be performed in a micro-gravity condition. Hence, the purposes as to why we were onboard the Shuttle at that time.
As their family members so eloquently stated, the crew headed into space with "hearts full of enthusiasm, pride in country, faith in their God, and a willingness to accept risk in the pursuit of knowledge--knowledge that might improve the quality of life for all mankind."
We will never forget their contributions, and we will honor their legacy by learning from this setback and moving forward with safe flight operations that will advance the noble goals that motivated our astronauts. That is indeed the admonition that each of the families of these seven courageous people has implored us to do.
The recent report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board represents the fulfillment of the first of our three promises to the Columbia families and to the American people--that we would find the problems that led to the Columbia accident. Now we move to the second of those commitments, to assure that we fix the problems and mitigate against the prospect that it happens again. And third, we will return to the objectives of exploration and discovery that the astronauts dedicated their lives to.
From the Investigation Board, we learned the unvarnished truth. A combination of hardware, process and human failures led to this tragic accident. We are now pledged to faithfully implement the Board's recommendations, and to go even further in setting the safety bar higher as we emerge from the Columbia accident as a safer, stronger and smarter representative of all Americans as we explore on their behalf.
I would briefly like to tell you how we are going to do this, but more importantly why.
The how is simple. Going forward we will take the lessons of Columbia permanently to heart and will organize everything we do--not just our human spaceflight activities--around an uncompromising ethos of safety and vigorously pursue again, exploration on behalf of all Americans. We know the American people expect nothing less of us, and we certainly won't let them down.
Part of this formula is to do the basic engineering and technical things that are required to renew that commitment. And it is, in this particular case a reminder, a stark reminder, that we can't ever forget again. The price of exploration is constant, unrelenting diligence. Human frailty and human failures that occur as a consequence of what we all in everyday life engage in, have the consequence of the worst kind when that diligence is forgotten for a moment. And we need oversight. We need to assure ourselves that there are folks outside of what we do who can bring perspective, different views, and important leavening to whatever we believe we think we know. That is humility and in cases like this, humility is an important factor to take large measures of regularly.
We're also working diligently to think in terms of the organization culture and the process of opening dialogue and constructive lines of communications. And the opening of those lines of communication will be marked by a renewed commitment to excellence in all the aspects of what we do. This is the soft science side of this. It's about people and to quote a famous philosopher, "People is hard." He really means that, and that is something that is the toughest part of this, the engineering, the physics, the technical side of this is comparatively easy. "People is hard."
Now in providing Agency-wide leadership as we strive to develop such a culture, and instill it in people, I am reminded that these are precisely the same public management and administration skills as a faculty member I thought we were trying to teach to Brady Howell and all of his colleagues at the Maxwell School in Syracuse. And so many of Brady's classmates, in addition to having reminded me that there was no place he would have otherwise worked, notwithstanding whatever advise he got, have also encouraged me quite pointedly to practice what you teach. And indeed, I am taking that advise very seriously.
As we move forward, some of you may be wondering how people who have professional responsibilities for the lives of others--as we do--are holding up under the spotlight of public scrutiny. I think President Bush said it best when he stated at the memorial service for the Columbia crew, "The people of NASA are being tested once again. In your grief, you are responding as your friends would have wished--with focus, professionalism, and unbroken faith in the mission of this agency."
I can tell you without reservation that I'm extremely proud of our people. They are not engaging in a useless round of finger pointing and blame shifting. Rather, they have accepted the findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, indeed embraced them, and are pulling up their sleeves and focusing on the task at hand.
Challenge in adversity reveals strength of character. There's a measure of that on display among the colleagues we are privileged to work with at NASA. The dedicated people of NASA have also taken to heart what one of our greatest Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, told a gathering of students like you some 93 years ago. "It is not the critic who counts," he said. "Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming."
Roosevelt continued to praise the individual who "actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
This year NASA has suffered an enormous defeat. But as anyone who knows our history well can tell you, we have also achieved tremendous triumphs in our course of 45 years. And indeed, NASA is profoundly defined by the great achievements and the great failures because that is what the risk of exploration is all about. It incorporates both. And it is indeed that way throughout the course of history. Every time we have seen evidence of looking around the corner, that which we don't know, is a tenant to that risk that in turn is marked by great victory and great failure. And like Teddy Roosevelt, I think our colleagues are fully aware and accept the challenge of being in the arena. I sincerely hope that all of you choose this path in life.
Now, I'd like to talk a bit about the why of what we do.
Spaceflight is a means to an end and at NASA that end is exploration, discovery and inspiration. Our purpose is to take the American experiment beyond our shores to heights unimagined and into frontiers unknown. Or as our statement of mission goals expresses, NASA's seeks to "understand and protect our home planet, explore the Universe and search for life, and inspire the next generation of explorers." That defines most of you in this room.
NASA's missions occur on a frontier that is just as mysterious and promising as the one that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explored not too many miles from here some two centuries ago. The frontier Lewis and Clark explored here in the Pacific Northwest was quite hazardous. But despite the loss of several members of their expedition, and the struggle of traveling through harsh terrain in winter, they never considered turning back.
Today, NASA's first frontier outpost is some 250 miles straight overhead. That is where at this very moment U.S. astronaut Ed Lu and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko are opening up new pathways of understanding and discovery onboard the International Space Station. Half the American people don't even realize there are people living there now. Everyday, 24/7 and every 90 minutes they pass overhead as they orbit the Earth.
It is unfortunate these days that the public doesn't know our astronauts with the same familiarity that your parents' generation knew such space explorers as John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. So let me tell you a bit about Yuri and Ed.
They've been on the International Space Station since May, and they will return to Earth next month. They are the seventh Expedition crew. Six crews have preceded them continuously, without a break, for now over 1000 days. We marked the 1000th day of occupancy this July.
Ed is a veteran of two previous spaceflights, has a doctorate in solar physics and astrophysics from the University of Colorado, and has developed a number of key advances to help scientists better understand the physics of solar flares. More importantly and more fun, it was Ed at the camera earlier this week taking those spectacular photographs of Hurricane Isabel, which showed up in every newspaper. I don't even know if you looked at the caption of the photograph of this big swirling mass, but it said, "Photo from the International Space Station, complements of NASA." Well it was taken by a real human being who is 250 miles off this planet, flying around in a laboratory. If you put any one of the journalists who would have liked to print that picture in there and said, "How'd you like to take that from the same condition?" they'd be totally horrified by the experience. There's Ed, up there taking shots like that. And that's in his spare time. The rest of his time he's conducting the science and keeping the amazing laboratory going.
Ed's from Hawaii and earlier this summer to help celebrate his birthday his colleagues at the Johnson Space Center and at NASA headquarters wore Hawaiian shirts and sang happy birthday to him via a NASA TV link. That had to be the most interesting television featuring Hawaii since Magnum P.I. and it wasn't made up. It's real!
Yuri is a Colonel in the Russian Air Force who has previously flown twice in space, once to the International Space Station with Ed Lu as his crewmate and fellow space walker. We call it Extra Vehicular Activity or EVA's outside of the station.
Yuri has done an outstanding job on this mission, but I suspect he will best be known for what he did during one of his scheduled rest periods. Last month via a private video hookup Yuri married his sweetheart Ekaterina Dmitriev, who is back on the ground in Houston. This wedding occurred as a result of an interesting codicil in Texas state law, which allows weddings in which one of the parties is not present. This is unusual. Try to think of the other scenarios in which that would really be relevant. For any couples in the audience who are contemplating marriage plans, I don't think your parents would be too thrilled if you're thinking about moving to Texas for this reason. For the record Yuri wore a bow tie with a blue space suit and the couple plans to have a more formal wedding ceremony once he returns here next month. It was also nice that Ed, who is a pianist, and a rather accomplished one at that, managed to sneak a keyboard on the flight up, so he played the wedding march. In the space station you can't march very far, but nonetheless they made a ceremony of it.
In addition to being a novel venue for a wedding, let me tell you a little more, more importantly about the capabilities of the Space Station. This facility is a football sized research platform capable of advancing research spanning across such scientific disciplines as human physiology, genetics, plant biology, earth observations, physics and cell biology.
From these experiments, scientists are learning better methods of drug testing, developing models that predict or explain the progress of disease; investigating how to use microbes to make antibiotics; and determine how to improve manufacturing processes. In short, this research is helping to better all of our lives. And it's the kind of research that can only be performed in a microgravity condition. We can't duplicate it here on Earth. We've tried and tried and tried, and can't find a way to make a laboratory replicate the same kinds of conditions we see in that space condition. Amazing things happen in that condition that we can't explain.
Our Space Station crew members are also learning a great deal about the physical and psychological challenges of living and working in space, gaining knowledge that will help pave the way for future human exploration of the solar system, exploration that I hope some of you in this room will help conduct.
While this research is primarily directed at expanding our ability to reach further out in the new ocean of space, we fervently hope it will also help people here on Earth. Let me give you an example. We know that in the six months that our Expedition crews spend onboard the International Space Station--for a Shuttle crew it's typically a two week to 17 day stay, and for an International Space Station crew, it's typically four to six months on average-- our crew members typically lose about 30 percent of their muscle mass and about 10 percent of their bone mass in this zero-gravity environment. They are exposed to the equivalency of eight chest X-rays of radiation a day. So trying to mitigate and understand what the effect of that is, and in this case it is not the intensity of the exposure as much as it is the frequency of it, that is problematic. Now fortunately, they recover this mass when they return to Earth and the radiation impacts are not dramatic. But they've got to be here in order to begin that rehabilitation process. And it is an enduring challenge to figure out how you would have anyone survive much past that period of time on a sustained basis if we were to conduct missions beyond it. With the future needs of long-duration space flight in mind, we are working hard to learn how we might arrest this pattern. But, think of the remarkable effect is has more importantly, on all of us.
Now think about what a solution to this condition might mean to the millions of people--our parents and grandparents-- who lose bone mass as a result of the natural aging process, and suffer through the pains associated with osteoporosis. It's the same effect, it's exactly the same consequence but it happens over a long period of time that is the consequence of loss of bone mass.
So what we're trying to do is conduct an ambitious research effort in order to arrest that phenomenon, and if we could figure out how to do it, it not only has application for long duration space flight and endurance but it also has the consequence of effecting us, all of us, right now, if there's a physical regimen, pharmaceutical treatment, whatever it is that arrests that phenomenon that otherwise afflicts all of us over a span of time. So imagine to most of the folks here in the room, when you reach our age, never having to hear about anybody who has to go through a hip replacement, we could make it a totally obsolete profession and get the doctors and other such folks who have created such procedures to go on doing something else meaningful in that.
As the second century of flight unfolds, we will of course extend our horizons further into the Universe we live in as we make progress toward our second set of mission goals of exploring the Universe and searching for life. And in order to do that we have to conquer this particular human endurance question as one of those elements.
In January the twin spacecraft Spirit and Opportunity will parachute to an airbag-cushioned landing on Mars and begin searching for evidence of liquid water in the planet's past. The twin rovers, each the size of roughly a golf cart and weighing 375 pounds will ramble dozens of meters a day, drilling into rocks and scooping up soil in preliminary field studies to help identify ancient oases at the designated landing sites. Back here on Earth, we'll all be able to follow all the photography and cinematography, when they've taken a real turn. It will be brought back via television and the Internet. Just link right on to NASA.gov and you'll see it all. It's all going to be brought back as it occurs.
Incidentally, the twin Mars Exploration Rovers received their names as the result of a NASA-sponsored essay contest won by Sofi Collis, a delightful third grader from Scottsdale Arizona. She's got a fascinating story.
Sofi was born in Siberia and adopted by folks in Scottsdale when she was about three years old. She has in her heritage and upbringing the soul of two great space faring countries to be sure.
In her essay, Sofi wrote, "I used to live in the orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night I looked up at the sparkly sky. I felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the spirit and the opportunity." And so we named the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
These are names that along with such great past Mars exploration spacecraft as Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Sojourner, Surveyor and Odyssey evoke the pioneering spirit of exploration and discovery that compels us to explore the vast and mysterious heavens.
Looking further out into the solar system, another of our future space exploration objectives is to develop new propulsion systems that will significantly enhance the ability of our robotic spacecraft to perform scientific investigations of planets.
We are looking at propulsion systems that will allow robotic missions for the first time to be redirected to take advantage of circumstances as they unfold, just as Lewis and Clark redirected their voyage nearly 200 years ago when it became clear there was no single water passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Our first demonstration of this technology will be on Project Prometheus, a mission that will allow us to send a spacecraft, using nuclear propulsion and power generation to get anywhere fast. At the present time, the way we're able to do this, as astronaut Bill Readdy can tell you, it's eight minutes of absolutely unrelenting excitement from the Earth's surface to low earth orbit, and then the engines cut off and you coast, kind of like being on a highway. No means of transportation other than the shoe leather you're wearing, and even that doesn't apply in space. Until we develop something that gets us out of that mode, we are in the same condition.
To develop new propulsion systems, we have recruited one of Idaho's most impressive former citizens, Theron Bradley, who used to run the Idaho Falls program for the Naval Reactors program here in the state for many years. He is now our chief engineer, and is helping us build a complex of very important nuclear power and propulsion systems to help us accomplish trips to many different destinations.
These are the kinds of missions that we will be conducting in the near future as we expand our exploration reach every outward.
To extend our human presence beyond low earth orbit we have a lot of work to do. We need to overcome a number of constraints related to how the human body functions, as I mentioned earlier, human endurance as well as the challenge of getting there faster. That is the task we have in the decades ahead. But as President Bush stated earlier this year, "This cause of exploration and discovery is not an option we choose, it is a desire written in the human heart."
Because NASA has such important work ahead of us, we take very seriously our final mission goal of inspiring the next generation of explorers, the young people who will enable this great cause of exploration and discovery to progress beyond our wildest imagination.
One of the means that we are using to reach out to and motivate our future explorers is to recruit a very special cadre of astronauts, our Educator Astronauts. The first of which is Barbara Morgan, from McCall, Idaho. She's been in the program for the last four years as an astronaut learning and training consistently in this regard. She has been a second and third grade English teacher and science teacher for several years before that. When Barbara was just starting out in her profession, she was filled with excitement about her first job teaching children of the Flathead Indian Tribe in Arlee, Montana. In an interesting twist of history, it was the members of the Flathead Tribe who warmly greeted Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery when they reached the Bitterroot River valley nearly 200 years ago. In all likelihood, when she flies on her mission of STS-118, it may well be on the Shuttle Discovery.
Now Barbara was originally selected to be the backup for teacher Christa McAuliffe on the Challenger mission in 1986. Following the tragic loss of the Challenger crew you'd think she might have given up on this. Instead, she redoubled her efforts. This is one of the most patient, persistent, and focused individuals--just like Brady Howell--that I've ever met. She began her full-time astronaut training about four years ago, and again, will be assigned to a mission not long after we return to flight.
I want to thank you all again for your attention and for your patience in what is a discussion of a very important set of objectives that compel NASA to conduct our missions on behalf of the American people, but also to think in terms of what inspires us. Not only about these missions, but about the people who are engaged so much in what we do in public service.
You have also given me the opportunity to tell you about some remarkable people whose inspiring spirit illustrates what public service and the adventure are all about. People like Barbara Morgan, Sofi Collis, Ed Lu, Yuri Malenchenko, Theron Bradley, the Columbia astronauts and their families, and yes, Brady and Liz Howell.
Indeed, both Brady and Liz are distinguished alums of this institution, and I know that Brady would very much appreciate your coming together in his name to celebrate the spirit of public service.
Let me conclude by noting that I've heard President Bednar refer to "The Spirit of Ricks." In reading about your school, I learned about how in 1926, a year before Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, a choir, orchestra and Ballet Company took off from your campus in a caravan of 20 automobiles, thus beginning the tradition of your performance tours--a tradition that has built bridges of friendship and understanding throughout the world.
It occurred to me that the members of your performance touring groups share with the NASA family a kindred spirit…a spirit based on your willingness to head into uncharted territory, like over into Wyoming, with boundless energy and good will.
I think it's time that the Spirit of Ricks is heard at the place where we send our space exploration dreams soaring. Therefore, when we return to space flight operations, hopefully in the next year or so, the NASA family would be honored if your talented singers and musicians could attend an upcoming Space Shuttle launch and perform for our special guests. I'm hopeful, President Bednar, that you will agree to that arrangement and that we can work that through.
In closing, as we contemplate our return to flight and the tremendous feats of exploration that you will witness and contribute to in your lifetime, I'd like to leave you with a couple of brief thoughts. All of the folks I've talked about here this afternoon are just like us, they're folks who have their own personal stories, and nothing was handed to any of them. But they managed to achieve what they did because they're persistent and they cared about their commitment to what they do. All of you can do this. Any of you can do these things, that's why we have the great privilege of living where we do. If you follow your heart and the grace of God, I think we all have our ability to make contributions. So don't deny that instinct.
There's an interesting fellow named John Lynhart, a professor who Houston who observed something that is quite profound. He said, "Mystery is the great driving engine of our species. Just how the pursuit of mystery and time and space has made us in the words of the Eight Psalm ‘a little lower than the angels' for all our venility, this particular wish to know, to understand is responsible for so much that is good and worthwhile in humankind."
Pretty thoughtful. But in doing so, and not denying that instinct to achieve, to take the example of Brady Howell, it is important, I think to be mostly driven by a thought offered by the distinguished American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes. "Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it -- but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor."
Pursue that instinct. Pursue these inspiring experiences of those who are just like all of us who simply acted upon them. And together I think we can achieve some remarkable accomplishments.
I thank you all for your patience this afternoon. It's a real privilege to be here at BYU-Idaho. Thank you.