On Christmas Eve, 1968, the Apollo 8 crew reached the lunar orbit. The year, as we all know, was full of deep division. But on that night, more than 50 years ago, the astronauts understood they had an opportunity to offer comfort and healing to the fractured nation they were gazing upon from hundreds of thousands of miles away. The Apollo 8 crew delivered a Christmas Eve television broadcast and sent back to earth the following message:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…
“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear’: and it was so.
“And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the seas: and God saw that it was good.
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”
I remember feeling the weight of their words. To the entire world, they were representing the best of America. Amidst the riots, the unrest, the deep divide – the world received a message of hope, triumph, and most of all, a message of unity.
When Christina Koch and Dr. Jessica Meir conducted the first all-female spacewalk in history in October, those same feelings came flooding back to me. For more than seven hours, these brave women made critical repairs to a power controller on the outside of the International Space Station.
The milestone represented America’s leadership in space exploration, and we owe it to the bravery and discipline of people like Christina, Jessica, and the entire crew who assisted in their historic achievement.
They were among the four women and four men selected from 6,100 applications for NASA’s 21st class of astronauts. NASA first began to admit women into its astronaut program in 1978, 10 years after the Apollo 8 mission.
I was proud to co-sponsor a bipartisan resolution in the Senate that congratulated Jessica and Christina for their extraordinary accomplishment of completing the first all-female spacewalk. The resolution demonstrates the Senate’s full support for NASA’s efforts to fully-integrate women into the astronaut corps. It also highlights America’s goal of sending a woman on the next mission to the moon.
As I watched these trailblazers conducting their repairs, I couldn’t help but think of the millions of young women who were inspired that day as they watched history unfold in front of them.
It’s been said that the future belongs to the brave. Jessica and Christina are leading this nation into our future of space discovery – inspiring future generations of female astronauts and explorers to follow in their footsteps.
This spacewalk is another reminder that we live in the greatest nation on earth. Even in what seem to be divisive times, we are gifted those special moments when all of us can stop what we are doing and unite around events that show the world the best of America.
There is nothing that we cannot overcome and nothing that we cannot achieve when we band together under a common dream. That’s a message we should all cherish this time of the year.