With all the much deserved recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, most of us have completely ignored the fact that we’ve just passed the 50th anniversary of the actual start of America’s manned space program. On April 9th, 1959, NASA announced The Mercury Seven: the seven men to make up their first astronaut class. I was only 3 years old on that day, but I know that things moved quickly after that.
On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard made a suborbital flight to become the first American in space. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made his speech announcing the U.S. decision to go to the Moon before a Joint Session of Congress. And on February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, to begin NASA’s Project Mercury series of flights.
I was so enraptured by the idea of being an astronaut that I went so far as to build my own mock-up of a space capsule out of cardboard boxes – complete with my own crudely drawn “control panels” cut from cardboard and inserted in the positions I had seen in photos. By that time, I was so used to playing by myself that the loneliness bothered me only when I had no one to act as “mission control” on the other end of the jury rigged, garden hose “comm link” I had run from my house to my “ship.”
All of this was brought back to me, years later, when I heard the lyrics to Elton John’s Rocket Man:
I love that song and I’m so glad I found this video. It may not include Project Mercury footage, but I think it captures the feel nonetheless.
Update – Jul/27/2010: I’ve had to replace the original video because it was yanked by YouTube. Please leave a comment to let me know if this happens again!
I want ice water.