Earlier this week, I began reading Moon Shot. It is the story of the space program leading up to the Moon landings, written by Astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton with NBC Journalist Jay Barbree. It is an insightful memoir that blends their personal feelings and how it all looked from their perspective. They also include prominent moments from the Soviet’s side of the space race. One of the things I love about these kinds of history books is the feeling of right now. I know what happened in most of these missions – the fire that killed three astronauts aboard the Apollo 1 launch pad, the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, the Apollo 13 almost disaster that showed the mettle of NASA and its team, but I still feel that edge of my seat, suspense, will they or won’t they and that is probably the finest thing history book can do. And it’s my own history; my timeline as it were.
I was born in 1966, right in the heart of America’s space exploration. There is a family story, in fact that describes my watching the first Moon landing of July 20, 1969. I was 2 1/2 and a very confused toddler. My father’s brothers are Uncle Neil and Uncle Buzzy and I wondered how they had gotten to the Moon when I heard that Neil and Buzz were the astronauts’ names. We just saw them!
I have long been a fan of space. From Star Trek and Lost in Space to Babylon 5 and Doctor Who. AS a child we visited Cape Canaveral, although I think y then it was the Kennedy Space Center. I remember wandering in the sunshine and pressing many simulator buttons. Somewhere in my house today is a moldy Astronaut shaped pillow that I refuse to part with. Any hints on getting rid of mold from fabric, feel free to message me.
As a teacher, we would walk our toddlers over to the Cradle of Aviation – a tiny museum that was housed in a hangar that had lunar capsules and cockpits.at the neighboring community college. Mitchel Field and Roosevelt Field used to be real fields and that is where Charles Lindbergh took off from in his Spirit of St. Louis. There is still a museum there, relatively new, bright with an IMAX theatre but there is also a shopping mall, showing the duality of history and “progress.”
I can always find Orion in the night sky and I’ve braved frigid temperatures to witness Lunar Eclipses and Perseid meteor showers.
Today is the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, which exploded 73 seconds into their flight, killing all seven crew members on board including the first teacher in space.
I was in college. 8am class, which I hated. Earth Science, I think it was. I recall people talking but I couldn’t quite piece the news together, only that there was news. This was before a cell phone in every pocket and a laptop in every lecture hall. I rushed back to my dorm where I had a black and white television set. We only got one station – ABC and there on the screen was tried and true Peter Jennings showing video from earlier and describing what happened in the opening seconds of the Challenger mission while I was falling asleep in class. It was quite a jolt. I had been following their mission, which included Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher.
The liftoff was being shown live in countless schools across America, if not the world, for that very reason. I was studying to be a teacher as was my roommate. It was like we had a colleague on board.
We’ve slowed down a bit on our manned flights. A mistake in my opinion. We’ve landed rovers on Mars and seen farther than we’ve ever been able to before. It’s amazing to think about what’s still out there.