Tag Archives: Mercury astronauts

Looking forward to this launch

It has been a good while since I’ve felt this kind of excitement preceding the launch of a rocket ship … but here it is.

They’re going to fire a rocket into space on Wednesday with two astronauts aboard. The launch will occur at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The rocket will be a Space-X ship and it will take place under the auspices of NASA, the U.S. space agency. The rocket will ferry the astronauts to the International Space Station.

It’s been more than a decade that U.S. astronauts have launched from an American launch pad. We have been flying Americans into space aboard ships launched from Russia.

The Space-X launch is a big deal in that it signals a potential return of manned space flight in the nation was able to put men on the moon, was able to set many space-flight records.

I plan to watch the launch when it occurs Wednesday.

My excitement over this launch is beginning to remind me of how excited I used to get when I was a boy. I would awaken every morning during the Mercury space program of the 1960s. I would watch and wait — and then wait some more during the delays — with my mother. We would cheer the Redstone rockets as they lifted off the pad. They graduated to the Atlas rockets for the orbital flights. Eventually we would cheer the monstrous Saturn rockets as they hurled astronauts toward the moon.

I certainly got excited during the launch of the initial space shuttle launches, beginning in April 1981 when the Columbia took off with John Young and Robert Crippen aboard.

The shuttle program ended. Since then we have relied on the Russians to take our men and women into space.

Now we’re getting back into the space game with the Space-X ship set to take off.

I’ll be in front of the TV … cheering the launch just like the old days.

‘Humans have to explore’

Binge-watching TV while we’re holed up during a worldwide health pandemic has delivered a curious dividend. A Netflix series, “A Year in Space,” has given me some grist for a blog I intend to share.

I now am filled with a newly heightened desire to see Americans restart its manned space program. We rely on Russian technicians to haul American astronauts into space, which I am sure would send Presidents Kennedy and Johnson — pardon the intentional pun — into orbit.

“A Year in Space” tells the story of astronaut Scott Kelly’s year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. It talks of his preparation, the launch, the trials and travails of living in the most controlled environment imaginable, of the return to Earth and his reacquainting himself with the sights, sounds and smells of the Earthly environment.

He spoke occasionally throughout the 12-part series about “when” we send human beings to Mars. I want to be among the living and breathing when that event occurs.

I grew up worshiping the seven men selected to be the first Americans to fly into space. I still know their names. I can tell you the sequence of when six of them flew aboard the Mercury space capsules; the seventh, Deke Slayton, was grounded initially because of a heart murmur, but he would fly in 1975 aboard an Apollo-Soyuz mission with his American astronaut comrades and the Soviet team they would meet in Earth orbit.

My heart seemed to stop when Apollo 13 suffered the near catastrophe in 1970 and cheered when the crew landed safely.

My heart broke when the shuttle Challenger blew up after its launch in 1986 and when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003.

Then the U.S. manned program ended when the remaining shuttle fleet was grounded.

Jeffrey Kluger, a senior writer at Time magazine and author of a book on the Apollo 13 mission, said it well at the end of the “A Year in Space” series. “Humans have to explore,” he said. “Only the target changes.” He said we had the oceans, the highest peaks, unsettled wilderness.

What’s left for us? It sits way past the moon.

With that, I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to Netflix for filling my heart with hope that we’ll embark on the next great exploratory mission.

Mars is waiting.

Get well, Sen. Glenn

I just heard that former U.S. Sen. John Glenn is in the hospital.

He’s 95 years of age now. He has lived an extraordinary life.

Marine Corps fighter pilot during the Korean War; test pilot; astronaut selected among the first men to fly into space; the first American to orbit planet Earth; U.S. senator; a return to space on the space shuttle Discovery.

The video here chronicles the launch of Glenn’s second trip into space. It took place in 1998, 36 years after he flew those three orbits aboard the Mercury spacecraft.

I get choked up every time I hear the space flight communicator announce the launch of “six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

Get well, Sen. Glenn.