Tag Archives: Cape Canaveral

Happy birthday, Mom

My mother once told me that she thinks of her late father “every single day.”

I don’t remember precisely when Mom said that; I think I was a teenager, which means that like most pearls of wisdom I got from Mom or Dad, it went in ear and out the other.

She lost her father in January 1950. He was in early 60s. Mom was not quite 27 when my grandfather died. Mom was 61 when she died in 1984 and I was not quite 34 years of age when I lost her. So there’s a certain symmetry, I suppose, between those two events.

But now that I am a whole lot older and perhaps a bit wiser (although that’s surely a debatable point) I understand more fully Mom’s notion that she thought of her father daily even all those years after his passing.

It’s been nearly 36 years since Mom died. Today she would have turned 97 years of age.

I think of her every single day. It’s usually a fleeting thought. I might conjure up a quip she would offer. For example, our older son was visiting us recently. We were chatting about the space program. I told my son that his grandmother hated the name “Cape Canaveral,” the place where NASA launches rocket ships, because it sounded like “Cape Cadaver.” We had a nice laugh over that gem from my son’s grandmother. She had a million of ’em.

I have thought often about how Mom would have grown old. I believe in my heart she would have done so with grace and good humor had she not been robbed of her essence by the killer disease known as Alzheimer’s. I no longer dwell on it. Time has soothed much of the pain of losing her. But not all of it.

I think of her daily. Today I want to wish her a happy birthday and to tell her: Mom, I now understand why the memory of those you love never leaves you.

Lander gives us InSight into Mars

I am such a space junkie, even when human beings aren’t at the center of daring missions into deep space.

The InSight lander has touched down on Mars. It’s beginning to send back startling, stunning and astonishing pictures of the Martian surface. The picture above shows a portion of the lander with the barren Martian landscape in the background.

The journey took 205 days to complete. The InSight’s mission is to probe into the Martian dirt to give us some clues to the origin of the planet and whether there is any sign of life, past or present, on the planet.

I loved watching the NASA ground technicians cheering, hugging, high-fiving each other when they realized the space ship had made its landing safely.

My excitement over the success, so far, of this unmanned vehicle makes me hope my heart will be able to withstand the excitement if and when we send human beings to the fourth planet from the sun in our solar system.

I also hope I am still around to watch it happen. If so, I plan to do what I did when I was a kid and the Mercury astronauts took off on their Earth-orbiting missions: I would get up early and wait with great anxiousness for the rockets to take off from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In the meantime, I am going to cheer NASA’s success in landing the InSight vehicle on Mars.

Given all the political furor and grief we’re experiencing here on Earth, this flight gives us a good reason to smile.

Thrill returns at rocket launch

A curious feeling came over me this morning as I watched the television screen.

A rocket took off from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was carrying — on its maiden flight — the Orion spacecraft. The Delta rocket roared to life, spewing flame and roaring like a thousand freight trains, and then it lifted off slowwwwly into the sky.

I began muttering under my breath: Come on, come one, come on.

Then I realized something. I was smiling broadly, ear to ear. I was feeling a thrill similar to what I had watching astronauts blasting into space aboard their Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle craft.


Hey, this was a big launch today.

Orion is being developed as the United States’s long-range vehicle that eventually will carry astronauts into deep space. I’m talking about Mars. Or perhaps to one of Jupiter’s moons. Or maybe to an asteroid.

It flew two orbits around Earth this morning, then splashed safely and on target into the Pacific Ocean.

Mission accomplished.

I’ll admit to being a sap when it comes to space flight. I’ve wept at the sight of rockets launching and at the sight of spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere. Heck, I’ve watched the film “Apollo 13” about, oh, 20 or 30 times and I still get misty when Jim Lovell tells NASA ground controllers that the spacecraft is coming home safely after that harrowing rescue mission in April 1970.

Orion’s first manned flight is years away. Its maiden voyage to the great beyond is even farther into the future.

I hope to be around to watch it take humans into our solar system. Yes, I’ll be crying.