Wednesday, February 20, 2008

History is Our Stories ~ First American Orbits Earth

February 20, 1962 ~ American Astronaut John Glenn was launched into space by a Mercury-Atlas rocket aboard the Friendship 7 capsule. During the 4 hour 55 minute 23 second flight, John Glenn made three orbits of the earth. The successful mission followed two sub-orbital manned mission flights, and set up the advance into space, the moon landings and today's shuttle flights.

I had a wonderful mother. I was kept home from school during all space launches. She felt that 'watching' the launches was apt to be more memorable and more important than anything I would learn in school that day. Of course, she also had me write a report to turn in the next day about what I learned. The television was black and white. There wasn't much to see. But, the newsmen who reported on space launches were experts on the mission. They had models to show what was happening. They became teachers about the mission. So, my day was spent with my mother 'watching' and waiting and praying. In spite of recent history, we forget how dangerous is was and how uncharted the territory. We also forget how exciting it was - exiciting for the entire world. We forget that we knew the Astronaut's names - we cared about them - they were our heroes. We hungered for the personal stories - the stories of the Australians leaving their lights on for John Glenn - the stories of the aborigines in the outback keeping vigil with Gordon Cooper at the tracking station and the conversations they had - the stories of the orbital sunrises and sunsets.

I will always remember the early space flights and those days with my mother. I will always remember and admire the men who made it possible. And, I will remember the excitement of it all.

Today, less noticed in the annals of history the Space Shuttle landed after a 5.3 million mile voyage... quick - who were the Astronauts? What was their mission?


Buck said...

I remember John Glenn's flight as well. I was a junior in high school at the time, and my school called an assembly just for the event. The whole school watched on several tiny teevees. It was an awesome event, in every sense of the word. Our national pride was on the line, and Glenn's flight was broadcast LIVE... in contrast to the Soviets doing all their space stuff in absolute secrecy. There's a lesson there about just how GREAT this country is.

OTOH, I watched the first moon landings in an after-hours bar in northern Japan (in the very wee hours of the morning. It was light outside when we left the bar...). Another memorable event, but for entirely different reasons, LOL!

Flag Gazer said...

Buck - I remember my Mom taking me outside to wave at each pass over - I doubt we were on the trajectory, but I was so excited!!!

The moon landing - big event too!