Rocket Man!

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.

Mercury 7

The original Mercury 7. From left to right, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Donald K. 'Deke' Slayton, Virgil I. 'Gus' Grissom, John H. Glenn, Jr., L. Gordon Cooper, and M. Scott Carpenter. 'Deke' Slayton is the only one to never fly an actual mission.

The Rockets of Project Mercury

The Rockets of Project Mercury

Mercury Capsule Sketch

John Glenn's Mercury Capsule

John Glenn's Mercury Capsule

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.”

The View From Inside A Mercury Capsule

The View From Inside A Mercury Capsule

All of this was brought back to me, years later, when I heard the lyrics to Elton John’s Rocket Man:

She packed my bag last night, pre-flight
Zero hour, 9 AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then

I miss the earth so much, I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no, I’m a rocket man
A rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone


Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them, if you did

And all this science, I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week, a rocket man
A rocket man

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no, I’m a rocket man
A rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

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!

Project  Mercury Pad 14 Memorial

Pad 14 Project Mercury Monument

I want ice water.

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14 thoughts on “Rocket Man!

  1. That monument is breathtaking.
    I love the personal touch you added to this post of what all of this meant to you as small as you were. Back then parents engaged their kids in these subjects, especially one’s about this topic. Now a days that doesn’t happen, it’s almost like we’ve decided it’s no longer a big deal, or we don’t have time to tell our kids about it. I had my daughter sit down and watch one of the launches this year, I think she’s was amazed by what she saw and who would blame her…it’s awesome, it’s amazing. Those “Rocket Men” deserve more notice then what we give them now a days. Time to break out some cardboard boxes, turn off the tv and go to Mars.
    I’m so happy you keep these memories alive for those Rocket Men.


  2. I like your attitude! I envy your daughter in having a parent that gets involved like that. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the opposite of the life I had. One of my very early posts, Environmental Impact, is all about being a little “space head” boy surrounded by people who could not care less.


  3. This is realy cool! i went to space camp in february 09, and ever since i’v been hooked on everything space. Haha i even have a space suit like the blue ones astronauts wear while they are on earth, but still working. We even designed our own mission patch as a group. I had a blast at space camp, and i was supper excited when i found this page πŸ™‚ Thank you for all of your pics and videos! Its awesome to look at.


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  6. Another brilliant posting Mak
    have a really great evening and
    I will be calling back to read
    some more of your postings πŸ™‚



      • Yes I have always been rather fascinated with anything related to Space travel, after all it has proven to be an invaluable asset, even though these days it is not appreciated as it should be, and some would rather watch those terrible reality shows instead of a rocket / shuttle launch, which I find insulting to say the very least 😦

        Have a good day today Mak πŸ™‚



        • I couldn’t agree more Andros. The fact that all those “reality show” watchers, living it up on the benefits of the space program, would refer to us as “idle dreamers” is beyond insulting! 😑

          You have a good day too my friend! πŸ˜€


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