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International Space Station

Eilene Galloway

June 1, 1992 – Swarthmore College, Swarthmore PA


When I recall the uncertainties I experienced in being admitted to Swarthmore as a student, I am surprised, even now, to find that I am acceptable!

After graduation, when you are first starting out, you wonder what will happen, but years later you can find trends that developed in some logical sequence. From my student days, I have a grateful recollection of my professors–Robert Brooks, Frederick Manning, Clair Wilcox and Jesse Holmes. My degree was in the Social Sciences, and they gave me the building blocks and methods I could use for new situations. I learned that political science, economics, history and philosophy are separate disciplines but they are continuously interacting in society. Of course, at that time (1926-1928) I didn’t know that my new situation would involve working on the Moon and Mars!

For those of you who were born after 1957, it is almost impossible to recreate the spectacular worldwide impact of the first sputnik launched into orbit. That small satellite behaved internationally, disregarding national boundary lines as it circled the Earth in minutes. A new environment was added to land, sea, and air, and here was a new tool that could be used for peaceful purposes but also for weapons of mass destruction.

Policymakers immediately focused on preserving outer space for peaceful functions and prohibiting hostilities. They undertook to match the order achieved by scientists and engineers with an international order of space law. NASA was created with Congress declaring our policy for peaceful purposes to benefit all mankind, international cooperation with nations and groups of nations. The United Nations created its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and formulated, by consensus, the Treaty on basic principles to guide States in the conduct of their space activities. A series of international agreements led to space law becoming a recognized branch of international law. We get compliance without a police force because space vehicles will not produce results unless they operate according to scientific and technical facts. If they do not conform to assigned radio frequencies, there would be chaos in communications.

So, for 35 years, nations have been exploring space, developing a variety of beneficial uses and avoiding space wars. We have seen pictures of the Earth serenely floating as One World, and we looked forward to entering the 21st century with more patterns of international cooperation.

But suddenly the cold war ended, economic inequalities became acute throughout the world, and instead of people cooperating to improve their lot, they started breaking up into groups centered in conflicts over religion, race, and claims of territory. We stand now between vision and reality.

I am reminded of Yogi Berra’s saying, “The future ain’t like what it used to be anymore.”

We are now forced to deal with the complex task of getting a stable relationship between Unity and Diversity. We cannot over-indulge diversity to the point that it becomes a weed that chokes out unity; but neither should we provide such strict conditions for unity that we lose the advantages of diversity.

We had a policy–“United we stand; divided we fall”–and we combined this with the idea of a melting pot for citizenship to achieve one national indivisible. Lately, however, instead of emphasizing ways in which we can be alike, we yell loudly about our differences. We concentrate on past origins as if we are permanently tethered, clinging as hyphenated European-Americans, Asian-Americans, Afro-Americans–Why can’t we all be just Americans?

The task of ensuring a healthy environment for our society, and protecting it against psychological pollution, is not beyond our powers. In many areas we have demonstrated our capacity to manage large, complex programs. For community planning, we can adopt the method of systems analysis used by scientists and engineers. They set an objective, define the total problem, estimate the influence of each component part, and establish a timetable for reaching specific situations. The diagnosis will vary for different communities, but the method can serve as a compass pointing the way to our chosen destination.

Admittedly, it is easier to fit hardware together than human-natured people. However, the concept of an overall strategic plan can help to eliminate piecemeal approaches to situations where major functions are separated into compartments. If separate proposals are made for jobs, housing, health, and education, we are apt to end with a juxtaposition of “one-size-fits-all” solutions that cannot add up to a whole community. If we try to get action by linkage of unrelated elements, we lose control over our ability to predict the consequences of decisions.

Choosing a method is only the beginning of the planning process. Beyond that we need in-depth studies to help understand why groups can become hateful toward each other. We must find out how we can cope with hostility in terms of maintaining a stable society. We have united our states–now we need United People!

New chapters of civilization have always been brought about by bursts of energy. Our energy for space exploration comes from rocket fuel and the psychological force of mankind’s destiny to expand knowledge of the Universe. We must now direct energy to expanding knowledge of community building where all systems “GO” and we can shout “Liftoff!”


Source – Gifts of Speech:
Copyright 1992 by Eilene Galloway. All rights reserved.