Never Give Up: Advice from an Astronaut

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The Cold War between the U.S. and the free world on one side and the U.S.S.R. and the Communist world on the other side was an ever-present reality for children growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. On several occasions—the Bay of Pigs incident of 1961, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962,  and the Vietnam War which raged through much of the 1960s and into the 1970s—Americans were afraid that the Cold War would turn very hot.

The 1969 landing on the moon was the culmination of a space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. In the early 1970s, officials in the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. decided to cooperate on a joint space project called Apollo-Soyuz.

In the fall of 1974, the Apollo-Soyuz crew and other NASA and Soviet space officials met with President Gerald Ford (center, holding model). Image courtesy NASA.

On July 15, 1975, the U.S.S.R. launched the Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan. A few hours later, NASA launched a spacecraft named Apollo from Cape Canaveral.

Front row: American astronauts Deke Slayton and Tom Stafford and Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov; back row: American astronaut Vance Brand and Soviet cosmonaut Valery Kubasov. Image courtesy NASA.

American astronaut Deke Slayton was particularly happy to be a part of the Apollo-Soyuz mission. Slayton had been chosen as one of the first American astronauts called the Mercury 7. A heart condition prevented Slayton from flying a Mercury spacecraft, and he had to content himself with a NASA position on the ground. However, his heart problem had cleared up by 1975. Fifty-one-year-old Slayton got to fly into space when the Apollo docked with the Soyuz.

On July 17, the Apollo and Soyuz crews came in sight of each other. Five minutes later they had voice contact. Speaking in Russian, astronaut Deke Slayton called, “Soyuz, Apollo. How do you read me?” Cosmonaut Kubasov answered in English, “Very well. Hello everybody.”

After a successful docking, the Russian and American mission commanders shook hands over Metz in France. General Secretary Brezhnev of the U.S.S.R. sent a message to the five-member crew. President Ford later called the crew and talked for nine minutes.

President Gerald Ford watches the Apollo-Soyuz crew on television while speaking to them via radio-telephone. Image courtesy NASA.

President Ford asked Deke Slayton: “As the world’s oldest space rookie, do you have any advice for young people who hope to fly on future space missions?”

Slayton responded with “Decide what you want to do and then . . . never give up until you’ve done it.”

Hang in there, Mama. Here is a slight modification of Deke Slayton’s advice: Keep doing what God wants you to do and then never give up until you’ve done it.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2








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