You may be familiar with these lines—the first of John Gillespie Magee, Jr.’s 1941 sonnet “High Flight”. Many of us likely recognize them from President Ronald Reagan’s speech on the day of the Challenger disaster, but “High Flight” has a much longer history with aviators and astronauts.
In 1966, astronaut Michael Collins took the text of the poem with him into space during the Gemini 10 mission. Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy must learn to recite it from memory. In addition, “High Flight” is showcased in a number of films produced by the United States Air Force, like the one below.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, before the United States entered World War II. He wrote “High Flight” shortly before he was killed in a midair collision on December 11, 1941. In his honor, we present you with a short 1972 Air Force film celebrating the joy of flight.