When I was small, my mother would wake us kids up in the early hours of the morning, to watch the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space launches. I think my sisters or brother could not have cared less, but I was captivated.
I don't remember John Glenn's flight, but I do remember Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper.
My family bought their first color television for the Apollo 11 flight to the moon. The only thing was that the pictures from the moon were in black and white! We had a pool party that day in the summer of 1969. I tasted champagne when my parents and the neighbors popped the corks - it was history in the making.
I think it was the Chrismas of 1963 that I asked for a telescope for Christmas. We live then in Palos Verdes, and the hill of the peninsula blocked some of the night lights from Los Angeles.
Stars in the telescope were sort of boring (except for the sword of Orion and the Seven Sisters). But the moon and the planets were amazing. I could watch the moon for hours. I remember the first time I focused on Jupiter and saw four of its moons. And seeing the rings of Saturn.
I think I was the only kid in the neighborhood with a telescope - and a girl at that! I made drawings of Jupiter's moons as they changed positions. And seeing Venus as it changed phases like the moon. And Mars did look orangish!
I don't think I ever was able to pick up Neptune, Uranus, or Mercury. I had a sun filter though, and could view the sun during an eclipse.
I guess this was my introduction to science. I read all I could. We had the 1963 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. I poured through that.
In fourth grade, I got glasses. It dawned on me that I could never be a pilot or an astronaut. Besides, all the US astronauts were men.
About that time, a great TV program, Star Trek came on the air. I stayed up Friday nights, as I recall, to watch it. It was amazing, and they had women in space! None with glasses though - 8-(
I recall going to the movies with some friends, to the Mall to see a double feature. "2001: A Space Odyssey" was the main show, but the B movie was "Marooned." I remember crying during the movie, because I was so worried about the fate of the astronauts.
(For those who don't remember the film, the three-man crew of an Apollo-space station mission, "Iron Man," become stuck in orbit when their retrorockets fail to fire. They are doomed to run out of oxygen and die. Mission commander Richard Crenna dies trying to fix the engine. In the meantime, NASA launches an SV-5 lifting body, piloted by David Janssen, through the eye of a Florida hurricane. And the Soviets redirect a capsule the aleardy have in orbit to try to reach the Americans in time. Crenna's death had bought them just enough critical time.
The upshot of the film was to develop the Apollo-Soyuz test project and rescue capability.)
Another great, and largely accurate space drama was "Apollo 13." It was inspiring what men could do with scant resources to bring the crew back alive from sudden catastrophe. It was a total tearjerker for me. And I loved the scenes of doing caculations on the sliderule!
Which brings me to why I wrote this blog. My husband and I went to see the Matt Damon film called, "The Martian." In a future mission to Mars, an accident during an emergency mission abort leaves botonist Matt Damon marooned on the planet, quite alone and out of contact.
His chances for survival are minimal, but he never gives up. And neither do the mission controllers and support personnel. Damon works the problems one by one, finding plausible ways to create more oxygen and water, and to turn a little bit of a barren, dead planet into a garden.
I'll not spoil the plot any longer, but the theme of never giving up hope rings through. And only people who are willing to take risks can achieve the "impossible."
See the film in the theater. It is well worth the price of admission.
And, yeah, I bawled like a baby.
The Pleiades - Seven Sisters