Many of you may understand what it was like to grow up in the 60’s and 70's. I believe it was the best time to be a kid. It was a time when everyone was not overly stimulated with multiple devices and a cell phone. It was a time when fast, cool cars like the the Plymouth Road Runner Super Bird, the GTO and the Datsun 260z were common, attainable, customizable and ready to race with no concern about resale value.
To me, this stretch of time from 1965 to the late 70s defined the advent of true invention. We are the generation fun innovators. We created Bicycle Motocross aka BMX. We elevated the skateboard from roller-skates to what they are today. We spearheaded the personal computer and video gaming. These are just a few examples of what my generation created. I am very proud of that.
On the flip side, I am very aware that we also fucked a lot of things up. There was rampant fraud and banking crime. There were drugs by the ton being imported from Colombia supported by greedy Wall Street guys in high dollar suits. Still, we were ok with everything, our own world was fine due to our lack of technology of getting up to the second news.
But let’s get back to the golden age of discovery, the 60’s and 70’s, a time when using your imagination was a viable form of entertainment. I remember there was not a single person in my generation that didn’t want a Jet-Pac! Every kid fantasized about strapping it to their backs and flying over to their best friends house. Jet-Pacs exemplified the future.
I was one of those kids always looking towards the future, and I had a direct connection. My father owned a plastic injection molding company that made everything from packaging to bathtubs, but the real gift was that he also made many of the plastic nosecones, fins and misc parts for the hobbyist company named Estes Rockets. For those of you that may not know about Estes Rockets, they are solely responsible for helping space travel dreams come true for many kids back in the day, as well as today. They manufacture model rockets that you have to build and paint, and that you can actually launch into space, or so we thought. Trust me, these rockets are no joke. They have the capability to reach magnificent heights; you could send live payloads, mice, frogs, crickets, into space (which I assume PETA may not endorse nowadays) and of course, they'd have a very high risk factor for injury and exploding…which was perfect! It was exactly what we wanted (remember, this was all before bike helmets and helicopter parents, thank you god!) This is what the future looked like and Estes Rockets and model rocket building brought me closer to that Science Fiction reality of NASA. I loved building models, I loved the Idea of space, I loved anything Space related. And I still do!
What I remember most fondly about the depiction of the future was the TV shows, the cool laser guns, Barbara Eden and Major Nelson.
When that Space program started to get mainstream and whet the public interest, one memory that stands out about NASA was back when my family was watching our B&W TV and watched the Apollo launch. It was late in the evening after my bedtime and the television coverage was spotty, the rocket shot into the sky with force and grace, with a trail of flames and smoke heading towards the moon, we watched it in awe. After the successful launch we ran outside to look for it in the night sky, We thought anything that may have looked like it was moving, we swore was the rocket. Truthfully, we didn't care if it was the Apollo or not, we wanted to believe it was. I feel that many of us from that generation believed we were living and breathing the future, a new dawn. I have witnessed many launches and I still remember that Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, I watched the live broadcast, shocked and saddened by the magnitude of that event.
This brings me to today; what has always kept me hooked on NASA is the old NASA, the classic NASA, the archaic NASA. It’s the Space Program with boxy computers, chain smoking engineers, those black, thin ties, white short sleeved shirts and massive headsets. Simply awesome. Let’s not forget the iconography of every rocket and shuttle, astronaut's patches, the equipment and gear, it is fantastic. My artistic style and eye is overwhelmingly attracted to it. Let’s say addicted to it.
I had the opportunity go to the Kennedy Space Center (finally) and experience everything first-hand. But by first-hand I mean the deep history, solid old school, the roots of it all tour. I didn't want to see the “been there done that" NASA, but the turbulent, relentless time of trials and tribulations, successes and "not so successful" times.
Here is a photo tour of the beginnings of the space program and the tangible roots of my childhood fascination with all things dream worthy.
This is the Mercury Control Center reinstalled in the Discovery Center
Grissom's space suit which was fantastic to see, photo by Glenn Smith
The symbol entering the what I called The Hall of Astronauts
Serena hanging out with this guy.
Launch Complex 5/6
The control room that launched Alan Shepard into orbit.
This was a very exciting part of the tour for me. This is in a nutshell, what I was hoping to experience for my first visit to NASA. This is where it all began, all the risks were faced, all the knowledge, science and ideas came to be proven, or not. Lives in the balance, the latest technology applied, and even ashtrays were installed in the equipment. See below.
Now for some engineering marvels: The V2 propulsion engine
Following is what I call "The Terminator" it's sole function is to destroy arrant launches if it becomes a danger to the pubic or populated areas.
Now off to the Apollo Center!
I have so much more to share but I feel it necessary not to overwhelm ya'll so until next time...