Making room for space requires preparing students for the challenges of outer space. It requires outfitting classrooms with the resources necessary for a new space age. It requires honoring teachers with a curriculum that respects the talents of all students, whose dreams of exploring space are attainable, whose hopes of sending experiments into space are achievable, whose opportunities to learn more about space are easily accessible.
It requires an advocate, whose expertise is proof of what is possible, whose experience is a triumph against the seemingly impossible. It requires a woman of diminutive physical height to inspire men-and women-to aspire to reach the heights of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It requires the leadership of Carie Lemack.
As the Cofounder and CEO of DreamUp, Carie shows that you can be modest in stature-she stands an inch short of five feet-but nonetheless have massive influence in the trajectory of a student’s life; of students’ lives, as people gather to watch a rocket launch and onlookers marvel at this
From that place, be it inside a classroom or from the viewing area outside a launch site, students now have a personal stake in that rocket’s rendezvous with astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
The payoff is in the payload, so to speak, as that rocket contains experiments students started on earth, which crew members will test in the low-Earth orbit of space. The experiments constitute a connection-a tangible one-in which students have more than an intellectual investment in the results of their work.
That they have an emotional investment, too, is critical to winning the hearts and minds of the curious and the courageous; because it is hard enough to take even a small step in the advancement of science, never mind a giant leap for the benefit of all humankind; because each step strengthens a person’s confidence; because confidence begets the desire to do more to go farther, faster, and further our knowledge of the universe.
It is also important to accept failure, since it is an inevitable part of converting theory into practice. It is not something to avoid, but a reality we must accept, because there is no reason to condemn what we should in fact cherish. To recognize this truth, which Carie embraces and uses to better educate students, is to realize that failure can be-and is-fruitful: that great things often emerge from colossal failures, including the space program itself.
For every rocket that never left the launch pad, for every rocket that spiraled like a burst of fireworks and exploded like a bomb, for every mission that was scrapped and for every module that was piled atop some mountainous scrapheap, there was still a signal. There was still a ping that echoed among the frustrated and the sometimes furious, whose anger was directed not toward others but at themselves. There was a reason for them to listen, because there was a message they had to hear. It said: keep trying.
That message is a story about resilience, a tale we tell ourselves in order not just to live but to live for something greater than ourselves. It is a story about what it takes to dream of things that never were-to dream up-and say, not ask: Why not.
Why not offer students DreamKits, so they can bring space-based research to their homes and classrooms. Why not, indeed, because they have promises to keep, and miles to go before they sleep; and miles to go before we sleep.
To honor the intellectual promise of a single student, never mind tens of thousands of students, is not easy.
That is why we must dream before we do, why we must learn before we think we can do, why we must think before we know we can do.
That is also why we test our experiments.
To have the chance to experiment is a testament to the resolve of leaders like Carie Lemack.
How else to explain a person who travels the world to promote the wonders of space? who attends so many conferences? who is not just present at these events, but a presence in her own right?
The message, again, is one of resilience.
To care about the earth and the heavens, to have others share your concerns-to convince them to care, too-is to weather the trials and exertions of a vocation that is more like an avocation, that feels less like labor than a labor of love.
To care is to do.
To care is to lead.
To care is to convey a sense of unity among all parties, so opportunity is not a reality for the few and a dream for the many, so all have the chance to realize the same dream-to explore the glory of space-by virtue of the same curriculum.
We need to care about these things, not because of what a leader says, but because of where a leader proves we should go: to the frontier of science, to the forefront of technology, to the foremost reaches of engineering and mathematics.
Getting there is a series of tests.
Each is a test of patience, of learning by doing-of learning from each failure, rather than failing to learn in general-so each student can transform intelligence into wisdom, so each person can look beyond this world; because there is only so much he can find; because there is only so much she can see; because there is only so much we will ever know.
And yet, we go on-we add to our cumulative knowledge of the world.
We apply our knowledge to better the world.
It is a better world, in part, thanks to leaders who sacrifice so much and ask for so little.
Of what they ask, we should agree to answer the call to serve-to be of service-so we can test more than experiments, so we can pass the test of leadership, so we can experience the ultimate adventure.