By John Herrington, USN Commander, NASA Astronaut, Flight Engineer
Now that the mission of STS-113 has come to a conclusion, I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who flew with me in spirit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I am humbled by the number of people that have been in contact with my family and me during the time leading up to, through, and following the mission. I will be forever grateful to those who have shared their prayers and kind wishes for a safe and successful journey. To those that traveled many miles to witness the launch, you have my deepest appreciation. Though many of you had to leave before we finally got off the ground, I am indebted to each and every one of you for wanting to be witness to this historic event!
Many people ask me, “What is space like?” Now that I have been there, my natural response is, “Is there a particular part you are interested in?” Why? Because there are so many things that stand out in my mind, they are too numerous to combine into one quick answer to one simple question. The moments leading up to the launch, the liftoff, the ascent, my first glimpse of Mother Earth, the space walks, the re-entry and landing; each one has a distinct flavor that could take hours to answer and still not provide the level of detail that would do the experience justice. My earthbound vocabulary is trying to find the adjectives that fit into this newfound realm, words that I can use to adequately convey the experience. Over the weeks and months to come, I hope to do just that. To put into words what my mind and body experienced.
I have been fortunate to journey to the place where I only once dreamed of going. It is a journey that I could not have made without the help of others. There are many people whose path I have crossed that have been instrumental in my life. Certainly and most importantly, my family and close friends have always been there and will continue to be as I travel on down this road. They were the ones that developed my character and gave me a framework by which to build my life. What I find most interesting, however, is that three people who shared only passing moments in my life were just as instrumental in shaping my future; a college professor, a civil engineer and a Naval Aviator. Each one of these individuals took time out of their life’s journey to share their insight and wisdom with a young and impressionable kid. They saw something that I had failed to recognize in myself and they made me aware of the possibilities that lay ahead. I could have politely nodded and ignored their advice, thinking I knew better than anyone else what was right for me, but I didn’t! I listened! After that, I acted on their advice. I will be forever indebted to them for pointing me down the right path.
This was a journey not about me, but about all of us who dare to dream. It is about the spirit of the individual that comes together on a team to accomplish the seemingly impossible task that is laid out before them. It is my hope that what we have shared together during the STS-113 flight to the International Space Station will motivate others to achieve their dreams, to realize that the future is bright and limited only by our imagination. If we are to achieve success in life, we must listen to the voices of the people around us and cultivate the seeds that are sown in our path. Success, be it in the building of the International Space Station, or the building of a personal career, is only possible through teamwork, commitment and dedication. The collective efforts of many talented people with a shared vision for the future are what will shape our destiny. We have looked over the horizon together and what lies before us is a universe of possibilities.