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One frequent bonus of working at a national aerospace agency is that one gets to meet their fair share of ‘space travelers’. On completion of their missions, they visit the center, share their wonderful stories, photos and anecdotes from their travels. One purpose of their visits to the center is to thank the workforce for contributions to the completion of their successful mission. A related purpose is to provide inspiration to scientists and engineers, young and old, to continue their work in the support of space exploration and related missions.

I have been fortunate to meet my fair share of astronauts over the years. I rarely let an opportunity go by to meet one, get an autographed photo, or even get a photo taken with them if possible. To merely be in the same rarefied air with them and listen to their enthusiasm for humanity, the earth, and for exploration, often fuels me up with enthusiasm for my work.

Needless to say, when the opportunity came to meet lunar explorer and moonwalking astronaut Harrison Schmitt, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. I thought it was going to be similar to my past experiences with meeting astronauts, but I was “oh so wrong”. There was a unique energy about Dr Schmitt of Apollo17, the last Apollo mission flown by NASA in 1972, almost fifty years ago. He literally had the energetic “new baby” like bounce and the “overflowing child-like joy” that both my wife and I clearly felt.

I marveled at the fact that he was so full of enthusiasm, four decades and more after the tremendous feat of Apollo’s final twelve day lunar mission. It made me ask several questions. When I get to his age of 84, what events will I remember from ten or twenty or thirty or forty or even fifty years ago which will fill me with child-like Joy? What am I working on today, which will make a difference for future generations (of life explorers) in future decades? What can I do today, individually and as part of a team and community, which will inspire the future in some big or even small way? How am I making good use of my creative energy on a daily basis to advance humanity’s future?

Yes. Some of these questions may seem “big-picture” like — even grandiose. And yet, they were inspired within me by being in the presence of one of four remaining humans who have walked another celestial body. I share the ‘big questions’ with you in the spirit that some of the inspiration of Dr Schmitt — a geologist turned jet-pilot turned astronaut who just “happened to walk on the moon” — also rubs off on you.  I am not sure of the answers, but my hope is that these questions will cause us to pause in the midst of our daily challenges, some small and some seemingly big.

In our  search of the answers to our own big questions, we can re-frame our vision of the world. With new perspective  and new vision, we can rise above the urgent and focus on the truly important . With new vision, we can then ask some big questions related to spirituality. How do we know that a ‘greater power’, It, exists? If It does exist, what is its nature? Do we have ‘personal experience’ of It, or is it a belief that was given us? How do we allow It to influence or effect our lives, or do we?


P.S. What are some ‘big questions’ that you often ask your own self? Share them with us in our weekly gathering in #SpiritChat on twitter, Sunday Nov 17 at 9amET / 7:30pm India. I will bring some questions, along with tea and cookies. We may even ask the big question – tea or coffee? Namaste – @AjmaniK

Astronaut Harrison Schmitt speaks about his adventures, asks some big questions, shares his photos from Apollo 17