Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Godspeed, John Glenn

It is the umptiumpth anniversary of Friendship 7's three orbits of the earth, according to today's New York Times. I remember being bused from Miller Avenue Elementary school across town (maybe 10 blocks) to the big auditorium at Townsend School (then an elementary plus junior high school) where, on one black and white television of perhaps 19" we all watched the grainy transmissions and static sounds of lift-off. It seems impossible now that the school district couldn't afford a television for Miller Avenue as well.

It was very exciting to have an American astronaut circumnavigate the globe. The Russians did that with every one of their launches beginning with the first. We used the equatorial route, they used the polar route (the easier to spy on the entire world, I guess.) The Russians always landed on land. We landed in the oceans.

A few weeks after this momentous event, we were all ferried back to Townsend School again, this time to listen to an audio tape of Astronaut John Glenn talking to one of the town's ministers, with whom he had gone to college. That was as close as we seemed to get to celebrity those days.

The space program has always thrilled me. There's a wonderful film from Australia called "The Dish." It's about the events surrounding the landing of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in July, 1969. In Australia, the date was my birthday, July 21. In the states, it was July 20. It's a delightful little film which I enjoy as much as I enjoy The Right Stuff (which does portray John Glenn) and Apollo 13. Apollo 13 has me on the edge of my seat every time I see it, even though I know what the ending is--thank goodness.

With the release this week of 8mm film taken moments before John F. Kennedy's assassination, I can only imagine how pleased he would have been that his goal of setting a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s was realized. That was so much greater a goal than staying the course in Iraq is.

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