The Wright brothers opened a new era in human achievement when, on December 17, 1903, they successfully flew their Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina – the first powered flight in human history. Since that time, Americans have led the way in innovation in flight and, more recently, the exploration of space. From “Lucky” Lindbergh’s pioneering solo flight across the Atlantic to the first moon walk, these events have all been celebrated on medals.
The romance of “those amazing young men and their flying machines” captured the world’s imagination – none more so than Charles Lindbergh when he landed in Paris on May 21, 1927, successfully completing the first nonstop solo flight from New York across the Atlantic. Women like aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart also became famous for their exploits as pilots. This attitude towards pilots has been transferred to astronauts, many of whom have become famous for their courage, perseverance and sacrifice in the cause of space exploration. “Gus” Grissom, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Sally Ride and dozens of others became household names across the globe along with the programs they were involved in – Gemini, Mercury, Apollo and the Space Shuttle. The high point in American space flight was when over 600 million people world-wide watched Neil Armstrong take the first step onto the moon on live television on July 20, 1969.
Today, a new generation is preparing to follow in their predecessors’ footsteps as private enterprise moves forward with ambitious plans for the commercial use of Space, augmenting NASA’s ongoing programs for exploration and scientific discovery and even sending astronauts to Mars, despite drastically reduced budgets. Entrepreneurs hope to turn the corner from exploration and discovery to developing space as the next great frontier where dreams can be realized and fortunes made.
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