WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I am writing from Titusville, Florida. My partner Mary Beth and I arrived here today, flying into Jacksonville and paying a quick visit to our long-time dear friend Peg McIntire in St. Augustine. Peg is 94 years old and will introduce me on Saturday evening in Gainesville when I receive an award from the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice (FCPJ). I worked for the FCPJ for 15 years and it was there that I became involved in organizing around space issues.
From St. Augustine we drove further south to Titusville where my mother lives. We took mom out to dinner at a local restaurant overlooking the Indian River. Just across the river from our dinner we could see NASA's vehicle assembly building where the space shuttle is prepared for each mission.
I told mom and Mary Beth a story about my first big space event back in the early 1980's. I organized a space conference for the FCPJ and we had a Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut Edgar Mitchell as speakers for that event. It was the first time that a Russian and U.S. space traveler had ever been together on the same stage. They both came to speak out against weapons in space.
I had called NASA and asked if the cosmonaut could get a tour of their facility. At this time we were still in the midst of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union so this was a big deal. NASA invited me to bring the cosmonaut to the vehicle assembly building for a tour. As we entered the huge building, with a shuttle standing on end inside, the workers all stopped what they were doing and watched us as we were shown around the complex. It must have been quite a site to see the Russian and the peacenick getting the tour.
And today we now hear that NASA is reassuring people that the next shuttle launch will be only in "minimal" danger due to orbiting space debris that could impact and destroy the shuttle. Just as we face global warming due to earthly pollution, we also face the problem of pollution of space due to our thoughtless use of space.
As I retrace my footsteps during this 10 day trip to Florida I will see many old friends who helped build the momentum that launched the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. The issues are more important than ever.