"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them." - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Richard Braastad was a longtime, dedicated employee of Celestis, which he viewed as both an employer and a means to help promote space commerce – a necessary factor in the significant expansion of humanity into the final frontier. He really enjoyed helping Celestis families fulfill their departed loved ones’ dreams of spaceflight.
A native Houstonian, Richard attended public, private, and parochial schools. He did undergraduate work primarily in economics, mathematics, philosophy, and piano at Houston Community College, the University of Houston, and Texas A&M University. He graduated from A&M cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in economics and earned a master’s degree in Studies of the Future from the University of Houston – Clear Lake where he was recognized by his professors as his graduate program’s outstanding student during his last year of full-time coursework. While studying for his master’s degree Richard worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center finding private sector applications for NASA technologies. He also served as the editor of a newsletter for National Space Society members in the southwestern United States. Although he was a certified space geek, Richard’s interest in humanity’s future in space was more than matched by his deep concern for humanity’s future on this spaceship we call “Earth.”
In addition to his work with Celestis, Richard worked closely with Celestis CEO Charles Chafer and Russian Academy of Sciences professor Dr. Alexander Zaitsev in the transmission of the “Cosmic Calls” of 1999 and 2003. These interstellar radio messages were directed toward nearby stars that could harbor extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). Transmitted from the 70-meter (230-foot) diameter radio astronomy dish near the city of Evpatoria, Ukraine, the Cosmic Calls included text, photos, drawings, audio and video files provided by K-12 classrooms and members of the general public the world over. American news broadcaster Hugh Downs contributed a video as well. The Cosmic Calls also featured scientific messages, including an ingenious message created by Canadian scientists Dr. Yvan Dutil and Stephane Dumas. This latter message used a ‘mathematical alphabet’ to convey information about Earth, our science and ourselves, and asked any ETI’s out there to return the Cosmic Calls with transmissions of their own. Using this mathematical alphabet Richard created a message for the Cosmic Calls that described to ETI’s a solar sail spacecraft that was designed to travel beyond our solar system to the stars beyond.
Richard’s hobbies included reading, astronomy and civic engagement. He enjoyed reading books about history, the stars and space exploration. He was a longtime volunteer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s George Observatory, showing the wonders of the night sky to the public. He enjoyed tracking satellites as they passed overhead, studied the history of thought about the possible existence of ETIs (a history that dates back to ancient Greece), and was especially interested in how indigenous peoples around the world interpreted the stars. And no, he did not believe in alien encounters, UFOs or little green men from Mars! Regarding civic engagement, he strongly believed that everyone should volunteer in local non-profits, cast their votes in each election and work hard to elect good people to public office. He started volunteering on political campaigns when he was in junior high school.
Most importantly, Richard valued his relationships with his family and friends. He was very active in First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston. He considered the folks at Celestis to be family. And as those who knew him well can attest, he was a friend who could be counted on when you needed help, and was not averse to sharing a few amusing stories, jokes and puns while conversing over a good meal. As is true with all of us, he wasn’t perfect: He had his faults, which he readily admitted and tried to rectify. But he always aimed for the stars, and was loved by and is missed by family and friends.
He was preceded in death by: his dear grandmother, Hattie Mae Rogers; his parents, Fred and Christine Braastad; his older brother Fred, Jr.; his faithful dog, Freckles; and his beloved cat, Emerald – some of whose ashes orbited Earth on a Celestis mission. Survivors include: two sisters, Barbara and Betty Braastad; two brothers, Bill and Bob Braastad; several cousins and a niece; plus several close and highly-valued friends.
A selection from “Locksley Hall,” written by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1835
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.