I have a cold, so to cheer myself up I figured, day 10 of black history month, hang out and read wikipedia pages about african american astronauts. (If you yourself have a cold, I think this is a great way of dealing with it even when it’s not day 10 of black history month.)
I was particularly intrigued by Ed Dwight, a test pilot and aeronatical engineer selected as one of the first astronauts. After Kennedy’s assassination, some of the buffers against institutional racism were gone, and things got hostile enough that he left the program… and then worked for IBM, and then became a charter pilot in Dallas, and then started a large construction company in Denver… and then decided to learn how to do bronze casting, got an MFA, and became a major public sculptor.
I’ve walked past several of his sculptures. I had no idea they were made by an astronaut. Or a guy who used to work for IBM. Or somebody who ran a major construction company in Denver that probably built some of the buildings I’ve been in and out of in Denver.
I love so much about this. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the way the arts and sciences aren’t either-or. It suggests that a life can have many high points, particularly in a country of opportunity at a time when long, healthy lifespans are possible. It feels magical and futuristic, but it’s right now, and it’s not even that strange.