There were applause, tears, cheers and even a salute as the 170,000-pound space shuttle Endeavour made its way from L.A. International Airport to its new home in the California Science Center just 12 miles away.
During its 20-year life span, the gleaming, almost glowing, Endeavour soared through space at 17,500 miles an hour, but in the last miles of its route on land its speed was reduced to 2 miles an hour or less as it pulsed along on a special dolly through a mixture of relentless sunshine, light rain and starry skies.
But I think that the slow, deliberate crawl was meant to be.
Had it moved any faster down the streets to its destination, the thousands who gathered to watch it pass would have been granted less time to absorb its size and meaning, and to translate into emotional terms what this giant meant and means to the destiny of humanity.
Like the voyages of Columbus or the discoveries of Einstein, the American astronauts who guided the space ship through the darkness beyond what Ronald Reagan called “the surly bonds of Earth” were taking the first steps into new lands or perhaps in this case new worlds.
Our future depends on the deeds of the brave and the audacity of those who seek answers on the shores of the unknown. Humanity evolves with change, at once understanding both how far we must go to complete ourselves and how far we have come in the knowledge of how to accomplish it.
The last route of the Endeavour helped us to understand the linkage that joins us on our own planetary voyage through the void. Out there, we are beyond nations or ethnic divisions, beyond race and the meanness that has too often characterized our species. We are united in this great human effort to reach the stars; how could one not applaud, cry or salute as the Endeavour rolled by?
We had just seen a vision of tomorrow.