To Boldly Go…

July 11, 2019

My mother was a HUGE fan of the early space program. She attended each and every televised launch during the original space missions and thought of John Glenn as a friend. Viewing was possible for her here in the Pines through the then marvelous magic of local broadcasting and our black and white television.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Together mom and Walter Cronkite covered each and every mission from launch to splash down. The young space program was a very big deal and early 1960’s television programming devoted hours of nearly commercial free time to each mission. My mom was fascinated. She was a farm girl born in 1917, only a few years before the Apollo astronauts. They were military men and indeed of her time. Space was the stuff of the imagination and now it was real.

In 1959 when the Echo satellites (among the first) launched into earth orbit, it was possible to see them passing overhead, just as we can see the International Space Station today. Then, however, we were not used to seeing points of light moving across the night skies. Our Blevins Street neighborhood turned out on the designated summer evening to stare at the night sky. We were not disappointed. This was an amazing thing for both my mom and grandmother, and all adults there. Kids in attendance seemed to take it in stride. The tiny point of light sliding among the stars was Sci-fi come to life for us. This did not seem a miracle or unusual.

Television and the movies prepared us well. It was indeed the future, our future.

The 1960’s brought us a lot of space adventure. Within five years of the Echo launch, men would be going into space. In July 1969, astronauts were on their way to the moon, just 10 years after we gathered to watch the tiny Echo.

Mom read everything she could get on the astronauts. Being a scrapbooker and a newspaper clipper from childhood, she saved much of this information. Her copy of the book about the Apollo 7 astronauts, We Seven, written supposedly by the astronauts themselves, as if they had the time, is chocked full of newsprint. There are tidbits from newspapers and magazines alike. I note that Time magazine was giving the space program heavy coverage in the fall of 1962. At one time, the choice was made; keep or toss. I did not keep a bag full of front page headlines which boldly announced things like the deaths of FDR and the Kennedy’s, the end of wars and the many space flights. We cannot keep it all.

One clipping caught my attention with ‘A father’s best gift: his time’. This was from astronaut Wally Schirra Jr.’s father, Wally Sr. It is a good article about good parenting by a good father and his successful son. It was current and valued stuff when it appeared in the Sunday supplement magazine in 1963. Good parenting remains timeless. Her archive includes clips of the tragic loss of three Apollo astronauts in a capsule fire in 1967. Mom did not know of the Challenger tragedy and would have mourned that loss deeply.

If you are old enough, you remember that hot July in 1969. The moon landing is one of those moments that we recall with clarity; where we were, what we were doing. I look forward to the adventure of astronauts returning to the moon. Mars, however, is another story and too far from this little blue marble for most. That adventure is for those who were not yet born when we went to the moon. Mars is for those with a greater vision and sense of exploration. The rest of us will watch this next step for humans in space on our television and various devices and we will marvel at the accomplishment. And most of us will be very happy to have our feet planted on good old Earth.

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