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Sun, Earth, Moon: NASA photograph from Apollo 12

Eyes Turned Skyward: Space Quotes

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"Some people want to give money to their children, buy houses, go on a holiday—whatever it is that they want to invest in. This particular journey has been something that I wanted to do most of my life, but there was no real opportunity to do so.”

— Sarah Brightman on spending (maybe) Fifty million US dollars on a ride to the ISS. Article in The Space Review, 6 April 2015.

"First, we must figure out how to live successfully for the long term on Earth, and then we can go to the stars. “

— Donald Goldsmith, Op-ed article on Space.com, 27 January 2015

"If we want to go to space with humans, that’s for fun not for science. Human adventures in space are just sporting events.”

— Freeman Dyson, Raw Science interview, 26 November 2014.

"If you want to have a program for moving out into the universe, you have to think in centuries not in decades.”

— Freeman Dyson, Raw Science interview, 26 November 2014.

"We don’t ever want to go to war in space, but we need to be prepared to fight a war in that environment.”

— General John E. Hyten, US Air Force Space Command. Speech at the Capitol Hill Club, 5 December 2014.

  Astronaut Bruce McCandless during his historic MMU EVA, NASA photograph

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your Eyes Turned Skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”


It's a famous line, seen often online and in print. It's almost always in quotation marks, and it's almost always attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. But that is wrong. How could Leonardo (1452 - 1519) taste flight? I’ve searched for years, but have never found definitive source information for this line. National Geographic Magazine researchers told me they talked to a leading da Vinci expert who said Leonardo never wrote it. The 2007 book Leonardo on Flight by Domenico Laurenza never mentions the line. A whole chapter of the 2008 book Leonardo's Legacy by science writer Stefan Klein is devoted to da Vinci's dream of mechanical flight, yet it also never mentions the line.  Rather, it concludes “after thirty years of tireless work, Leonardo's dream of flying had reverted to what it was in the first days of his research — a flight of the imagination” (page 126).

But this “quote” holds a strong appeal to our psyche; maybe because many of us have our eyes, minds and hearts turned upward to space. So it's my title here on the internet. A place where astronomers and astronauts, dreamers and doers, share with us their best thoughts on space. And the title is also a reminder to me to be as accurate as I can in recording original source information.

I find it interesting that several other popular space quotes are also actually myths or misquotes:

+ Galileo Galilei did not mutter E pur si muove (and yet it moves) after recanting before the inquisition.

+ Neil Armstrong's That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind line needs the a in parenthesis.

+ Apollo 13's Houston, we have a problem phrase was actually said in the past tense.

+ Flight Director Gene Kranz never said Failure is not an option.

+ Wernher von Braun never said I aim at the stars. But sometimes I hit London.

+ Peter Pan didn't say Second star on the right, and straight on till morning when the play was first performed.

+ Carl Sagan never said they were Billions and billions of stars or galaxies.

+ Konstantin E. Tsiokovsky didn't exactly say Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in a cradle forever.

+ Captain James T. Kirk (of the Starship Enterprise) never said Beam me up, Scotty in the TV series or in any of the movies.


Want to delve deeper into longer works? Want to read more than a few sentences? There is a fantastic book in print that has reprints of 100 seminal original papers from the history of astronomy all introduced, arranged and edited perfectly: Archives of the Universe, by Marcia Bartusia.


“I’m sure we would not have had men on the Moon if it had not been for Wells and Verne and the people who write about this and made people think about it. I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.”

— Arthur C Clarke, The View from Serendip, page 238, 1977.

Reading, dreaming and thinking about crazy space ideas has already resulted in us driving a car on the Moon and sending probes flying out of our Solar System. My hope is that this compendium of man's first-hand thoughts on the universe around us will inspire much more exploration and understanding. You are welcome to help, please email me or visit space quotes on facebook or the twitterverse with additions, corrections, original sources or any other thoughts. I hope you enjoy this collection, and walk the Earth with your mind and eyes turned skyward.


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