When I was a boy in the late 1960s and early 1970s NASA was flying the Apollo Missions to the Moon. Yes, in spite of what you saw on that infamous FOX network program, Man did fly to the Moon. Those
guys were making history and I wanted to be just like them. I remember telling people that I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up.
What dreams did you have?
Well of course that did not happen but lately my daughter Miranda and I have met quite a few of those early astronauts. Once a year someone will host an astronaut autograph show and invite
these astronauts to attend. All charge a fee to sign books and charts and photos or what ever you bring. Some will donate their fees to charity. Usually there is a banquet to attend too. It is a neat
weekend and we have attend two of these shows.
The first was in San Antonio in 2006. It took place on the same weekend Miranda turned 13 so she went with me. Kind of a birthday present.
While there we met Buzz Aldrin. Buzz flew on Gemini 12 and Apollo 11. He was with Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11 and was the Lunar Module Pilot on the first manned Lunar Landing Mission. He was the
second man to walk on the Moon. We were seated at Buzz's table for the Saturday evening banquet. It was OK but we, along with most of the other guests at Buzz's table wish he had talked about
space flight instead of business adventures.
This is Alan Bean. He was the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 12 and later flew on the SkyLab space station mission. SkyLab was America's first space station. He was the fourth man to walk on the Moon. Al has become a very successful painter since he retired from NASA. Most of his artwork is about his years with NASA. I have a print of one of his paintings. It is titled Straightening Our Stripes and it shows Neil Armstrong straightening the American flag after it was planted on the Moon.
This is Dave Scott. He flew on Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong and then he was the Commander of Apollo 15. He was the seventh man to walk on the Moon. He is a very shy person and usually does not pose for photos with other people but on this day he agreed to pose with Miranda.
This is Gene Cernan. Gene flew on Gemini 9 and Apollo 10 and Apollo 17. Due to a malfunction the Apollo 10 Lunar Module almost crashed in to the Moon but Gene and Tom Stafford were able to regain control of the spaceship just in time. Gene was the Commander of Apollo 17 and was the last man to walk on the Moon.
There was one more Moon Walker at the show and we did stop and talk with him, Ed Mitchell, but we did not ask him for a picture. Ed was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 14. The commander of that mission was America's first man in space, Alan Shepard.
While we are talking about Moon Walkers lets stay with them.
This is Harrrison Schmitt. He flew to the Moon with Gene Cernan and was the 12th man to walk on the Moon. Harrison was the only true scientist to go to the Moon. He is a geologist. Later he was elected to the U.S. Senate from the State of New Mexico. Harrison does not attend these shows but he did make an apperance in Kansas City and we were invited to the event.
Other astronauts who were at the 2006 show in San Antonio were Walt Cunningham. He flew on Apollo 7. The first manned orbital flight in the Apollo Program.
Richard Gordon flew on Gemini 11 and Apollo 12. He orbited the Moon while Pete Conrad and Al Bean walked on it. The Apollo 12 crew probably had more fun in space than any of the other crews.
Left to right in this group shot is Vanentina Treshkova, Miranda, myself, Bruce McCandless, and Alexi Leonov. Vanentina was the first woman to fly in space. She is Russian and came to the United States for this show. Bruce was the first man to fly the Manned Maneuvering Unit, the "space jet pack" away from the space shuttle without being tethered to the shuttle. Alexi Leonov, another Russian, was the first man to take a space walk. Like America's Alan Bean, Alexi is an artist. I have one of his prints too. It is titled First Walk and it is a self portrait showing him during his walk in space. Another one of these First Walk prints is on display at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. Visit the Cosmosphere's webpage at http://www.cosmo.org
Scott Carpenter. Scott was the second American to go into orbit. Scott flew the Aurora 7 mission which was right after John Glenn's Friendship 7 flight. After his NASA career he spend time exploring the depths of the Oceans and has written some fiction books about deep Ocean exploration. He also wrote a biography of his life.
Wally Schirra. Wally was the only astronaut to fly a Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Mission. We first met Wally at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. Wally is really a great guy. I wish we had opted to set with him at the banquet in San Antonio. We purchased tickets for the 2007 show and we were going to set with Wally at that banquet but Wally passed away suddenly before the show. We do miss him and we are thankful for the special time he took to chat with and have a laugh with Miranda.
Al Worden flew on Apollo 15 with Dave Scott and Jim Irwin. Al did a space walk on the way back from the Moon. His space walk took place further from the Earth than any other space walk. Al told us that while he was outside the Apollo 15 that he could turn his head one way and see the whole Earth and then turn the other and see the whole Moon. It must have been a great experence.
There were other people at the show beside the astronauts. This photo shows us with Dee O'Hara and Cici Bibby. Dee was the nurse hired by NASA to work with the astronauts. She did their testing and check ups and she has lots of stories to tell about her guys. Cici was a painter and John Glenn asked her to paint Friendship 7 on his Mercury spacecraft. Al Shepard and Gus Grissom had went into space with the names applied with a stencil but John wanted something better than that. After that Cici painted the rest of the Mercury spacecraft. Truely a pair of very nice ladies.
This picture was not taken at the 2006 San Antonio show but I wanted to start with it. From left to right are Max Ary, John Aaron, Jerry Bostick, and Gene Kranz. Max was the director of the Kansas Cosmosphere for about 25 years. I took this photo at the Omin-Plex in Oklahoma City, Max was the Director there at the time. The event this evening was the 2004 Induction of the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame. John Aaron was being inducted. John is one of NASA's most famous Flight Controllers or Mission Control workers. Jerry Bostick was also a NASA flight controller and was there to celebrate with John. Gene Kranz was a Flight Director for NASA and is famous for his quote, "Failure is not an Option". Gene Kranz was the keynote speaker for the event. Gene has written a book titled "Failure is not an Option" and I took a copy of it with me to the induction. I asked Gene to sign it and he agreed. Then he took me around and personally introduced me to John and Jerry. He had them sign the book too. It was a special evening for me.
Later was saw Gene Kranz again at the 2006 show in San Antonio. Gene still lives in the greater Houston area and he had to evacuate for Hurricane Rita. Gene has lots of personal mementos from his years at NASA and he did not have time to get them out of Rita's path. As it turned out everything was fine but Gene decided it was time to sell some of his mementos. His church was having a fund raising so they could build a new church so Gene decided to help that fundraiser. One if the items he sold was an American flag and mission patch that flew on the 6th mission of the Space Shuttle. That flag and patch is on a presentation piece made out to Gene and signed by the Director of NASA. Well I purchased that piece and it is now in my "office" at home. I told Gene about it and he thanked me for purchasing it and I thanked him for offering it for sale.
We attended the 2007 Autograph show at Cape Kennedy. When we went up to Gene's table he looked at us and thought for a moment. He said "where do I know you from"? I told him we had talked with him at the San Antonio show in 2006. He said "No, that is not it. Where did we first meet"? I told him it was during John Aaron's induction and he said, ""Yes, now I remember. How are you". That was neat. Gene Kranz remembering us. Later we were at the banquet and the dinner had not started yet. I felt someone tap on my shoulder and I turned and looked and it was Gene Kranz. He said, "Sir, may I get my picture taken with you", and then he pointed out a photographer. That made the whole trip worth while. WOW.
Sy Liebergot is another very special person. He was also a Flight Controller for NASA. He was on duty as Apollo EECOM when the explosion tore through Apollo 13. He really made Miranda and I feel welcome. This photo was taken at the 2006 show in San Antonio. Later we chose to set with Sy Liebergot during the banquet at the 2007 show. Miranda was seated next to him. It was a speical evening.
This is Guenter Wendt. Guenter was in charge of the White Room or the team that put the astronauts in the spaceships. He was the last man they saw before they went into space. Guenter worked every mission from Freedom 7 through Apollo 17 and in to the Space Shuttle Program with one exception. After the successes of the Mercury and Gemini Programs NASA hired a different contractor for the Apollo Missions. Guenter was not there for the start of the Apollo Program and during a pad test, with the other contractors crew working the White Room, a fire broke out in the Apollo 1 spaceship. Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White lost their lives that day. Later the astronauts insisted that NASA hire Guenter and they did. Guenter has written an excellent book titled Unbroken Chain. I recommend it.
Miranda and I attended the 2007 Autograph Show at Cape Kennendy. Most of the same astronauts were there as well as a few that we had not met before.
This is Charlie Duke. He was the 10th man to walk on the Moon. Charlie was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 16 and he flew to the Moon with John Young. Of the 12 Moonwalkers, 9 of them are still alive and we have met 7 of them.
Dee O'Hara was there again and we had a very nice visit with her.
Miranda likes to draw cartoons and she had drawn one for Dee in San Antonio and she drew Dee another. Dee really liked it and she took the wording on the cartoon, a joke between Dee and Wally Schirra, and turned it into a nice signed photo and she presented it to Miranda. That was a special thrill.
I mentioned earlier that we sat at Sy Liebergot's table at the banquet.
Sy was a great host and we really enjoyed the evening with him. We asked one question about the space program and he spoke the rest of the evening about his role at NASA and about the history of space flight in general. Sy is a real champion of the history of NASA and what the Mission Control workers accomplished.
There was a shuttle launch that weekend too. We were able to get causeway tickets which meant we were only about 6 miles from the Pad. STS-117 took off on time that evening.
Some may ask why we go and meet these astronauts and NASA employees. Miranda's goal is to attend the Air Force Academy and learn to fly jets. From there she wants to go to NASA and fly in space. I try to encourage her when I can. And when she meets these astronauts maybe she will realize that they are normal people, just like her.