Alumnus, advisory board member, great friend of the Franklin College and NASA administrator Roger Hunter discusses the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the future of space exploration:
Hunter was project manager for NASA’s Kepler mission, which used a space telescope to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way galaxy. He currently serves as program manager for NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program.
We’re now 50 years out from the moon landing. As you reflect back on that achievement, what strikes you as the most enduring impacts of the Apollo program?
“In my life, I know of two events where time stood still for the human race: Apollo 8 and Apollo 11. I remember how the world seemingly paused from its routine to revel in its imagination; to celebrate, what was once deemed impossible. The ‘Earth-rise’ photo, taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts is reputed to be the most reproduced photograph in human history. My first glimpse of that photo was on a black and white television in my parents’ living room. I was awe-struck even though the image was not in full color. We felt reconnected to the one only planet, so far, of all the ones that we know exists, that harbors life in such abundance and diversity. To date, venturing to the Moon was our greatest adventure; it reminded us of how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.”
Why do you think it’s important for us to continue to explore space?
“We are, by nature, explorers. We are descended from those who dared to leave the caves, and to see what was beyond the horizon. Our cave-dwelling ancestors painted, among other things from their world, the heavens on their cave walls. Thousands of years later, our curiosity led us to better understand our world and those points of light in the night sky beyond that graced those crude drawings. Exploring brings out the best in us; it also represents, in my mind, a willingness to leave something behind for our descendants. I recall reading an article by a former NASA administrator who was also answering a similar question. He spoke of ‘deferred gratification’ as a compelling notion that drives exploration. There may not be an instant realization of ‘return on investment’ but the investment, intuitively, answers a call from our nature—to leave behind something better and to advance our civilization.”
Hunter has been instrumental as a mentor to the UGA Small Satellite Research Lab, as well as numerous other endeavors large and small involving UGA and the Franklin College. We continue to be as proud of him as he is of UGA, and appreciate his tireless support of our faculty, students and alumni.
Image of Roger Hunter courtesy of NASA.