Reflections on the death of astronaut William Anders

Reflections on the death of astronaut William Anders
Reflections on the death of astronaut William Anders

Virtually all media outlets reported – a few days ago – the death of William “Bill” Anders, a NASA astronaut who was part of the crew of Apollo VIII, which was the second manned mission of the US space program. This mission went into space on December 21, 1968, returning six days later. It was the first manned mission to leave Earth’s orbit, reach and orbit the Moon, and eventually return to Earth.

Anders died following a plane crash in Washington state. More precisely, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release stating that the plane he was driving had crashed off the coast of Jones Island.

The former astronaut’s body was recovered the same day of the accident, after a search was launched by the United States Coast Guard and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department.

What the media was concerned with was pointing out the trajectory of this man as an astronaut, as well as remembering the iconic photo he took of the terrestrial globe obtained from lunar orbit; that is, about 380,000 kilometers away. A great and notable feat for those early times that would lead to humans walking on the selenite surface.

But there is a singular detail, to which few paid sufficient attention. William Anders died on June 7 due to the accident that occurred while he was driving a single-seat airplane – an old Beechcraft T-34 Mentor – something he did frequently, being recognized as a skilled aviator.

The issue to highlight is that this man had turned 90 chronological years. Yes! Anders was flying airplanes nine decades into his life. Wow, this tells us about the reality we are going through, a time of longevity where reaching such ages of life with broad skills and abilities begins to become commonplace. In the specific case of Anders, it is clear that, being a nonagenarian, he had his mental faculties, perceptual abilities and reflexes well suited for such responsibilities.

In principle it can be assumed that this is an extraordinary case, out of the ordinary. But it’s not like that. The examples are numerous. Then we will see some of them. The important thing is to be aware that people who reach these ages – if they do it in the appropriate way – are perfectly included in the sociocultural field without any type of exclusions. They are neither “grandparents”, nor “old people”, nor “old people”, nor any idea of ​​the order of exclusion; but they can develop their lives added to the daily lives of most people. It is true that this is something that was unthinkable just a few decades ago; Although there were some scholars – from the second half of the 20th century – who anticipated that, by the 21st century, life expectancy would increase so much that becoming a useful person for oneself and for the community would be possible even at the age of one hundred.

The current presidential race in the United States is a good example. Joe Biden will be 82 years old by this year’s election. If he succeeds, he will fulfill his mandate at the age of 86. His opponent, Donald Trump, just turned 77 years old. If he wins, he will finish his term at the age of 81.

I will give a few Argentine examples. The president of the Argentine Scientific Society – the oldest science entity in Latin America – is Professor Dr. Ángel Alonso, 84 years old, and a member – also – of the National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires. Dr. Alberto Cormillot, at 85 years of age, continues with his medical work, radio and television programs. The writer, journalist and essayist Roberto Alifano, 81 years old, current Secretary of Culture of the board of directors of the Argentine Society of Writers (Sade), continues to publish his articles weekly in European newspapers. The graduate in Physics, José María Lentino, 81 years old, also leader of the Argentine Scientific Society. Dr. Mario “Pacho” O’Donnell (82 years old) who, by the way, has just published a bestseller (it has now been in 5 editions) about “the new old age.” The philosopher Professor Dr. Francisco García Bazán (84 years old), currently working on a new book of historical essays.

The doctor of Medicine and Psychology, psychiatrist and writer Vicente Rubino has just published a new book in Madrid, while he resides in the province of Córdoba, at the age of 91. The same can be said of Dr. Graciela Maturo who, at 95 years of age, has been nominated for the Konex Prize for her essayistic work.

And this brief list that only lists some of the many who, having exceeded 80 years of chronological age, continue to develop professional, artistic, scientific, business and literary activities.

This is, without a doubt, one of the characteristics that define current times and that forces us to reconsider the concept of what chronological age “old age” occurs as a synonym for someone who is no longer able to be actively integrated into society. .

Antonio Las Heras is a doctor in Social Psychology, a master’s degree in Psychoanalysis, a historian and a parapsychologist. “Dare to live fully” is his new book;

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