Twenty minutes before I wrote this letter, I walked out my front door, looked at the southeast sky and saw, precisely on schedule, the bright dot of NASA’s LADEE exploratory rocket arching skyward after taking off from Virginia on a trip to the moon [“Rocket launch in our back yard!,” Metro, Sept. 1].

It was, truth be told, a minor visual spectacle, but I found it truly a tonic because it suggested that, despite all our nation’s troubles and controversies, we are still capable of great things and great technologies. I remember the last time I was thus thrilled, when — as a 7-year-old boy — I joined my dad in our back yard in southern California in the late 1950s to see the faint “star” of one of the United States’ first satellites crossing the sky above us.

More than 50 years onward, I’ve grown cynical, but I still have sparks of hope for our future as a nation, and seeing our skyward aspiration tonight gave me just a bit more hope.

Marc E. Nicholson, Washington