I was never all that interested in space as a kid. I enjoyed reading The Martian Chronicles and some other sci fi classics, but I was barely aware of NASA or the science of space exploration.
That all changed for me on the Fourth of July, 1997, when I watched the Mars Pathfinder land on the red planet.
Watching that room full of engineers and scientists was extraordinary. I got to share their anxious watching and waiting as, step by step, the Pathfinder passed through the stages of its landing sequence. These women and men had dedicated so much effort, and so many hours, to realize this particular dream of landing an explorer on Mars.
I was so moved to watch the elation on their faces as they received each positive signal - but that was nothing compared to the eruption of sheer joy when they knew the landing was successful.
So many things about that mission made me happy and proud - naming the Pathfinder after Carl Sagan, landing on the Fourth of July, naming the rover after Sojourner Truth.
And over the past week, I've been delighted to peek in occasionally on NASA's latest space shuttle mission. It's a marvellous gift, getting to watch the blastoff, the docking, the spacewalks; and getting to read about the team and the mission at NASA's site is icing on the cake.
I'm grateful to the visionary scientists who have planned and carried out these wondrous achievements, and I'm thankful that NASA shares it all with us.