Meeting Our Space Pioneers

Universal Autograph Collectors Club (UACC) Convention 2006

San Antonio, Texas

The UACC sponsors a number of large scale events where celebrities from the aerospace and entertainment business gather. Steve Hankow and Nolan Sims, of Sims and Hankow Enterprises, co-sponsored by Autograph Collector Magazine and collectSPACE, produced the 2006 show here in south central Texas. Space collectables and space pioneer autographs offer a wonderful opportunity to share our great living histories of astronauts, cosmonauts, managers, leaders, technicians - and those who have portrayed them in film and television. If there's a space geek heaven, this must be very close to it.

Many of the distinguished guests are business people, and space collecting is certainly a business, so most charge a fee their autographs. Some say since our tax dollars paid the astronauts and built their rockets, they should continue to sign for free. I disagree: I feel they have paid back their share many times over in appearances and events as government and military employees.

I'll remember the weekend of 11-13 August 2006 as one of the top 10 events in my life thus far. It's never too late to meet your heroes. Significantly, everyone we met gave visitors one-on-one time, really taking a moment to connect with each guest, and entertain questions. They especially take time with kids, knowing the great power they have to challenge new generations to reach for the stars. Everyone we met was gracious, eager to chat, and willing to share their unique experiences. Many have held the most difficult jobs in the world, but they all use their long-lived celebrity to inspire others to take on the next phase of exploration. Here are images and impressions of an overwhelmingly exciting few days.


The Mercury 7

My wife Mary and I had the opportunity to meet 2 of the 3 surviving original Mercury 7 astronauts (John Glenn is the third). These first US pioneers are icons of the 20th century, but they are also very, very nice guys. They are into their 80s now, though we hope they'll be with us many more years. It seems so hard to believe more than 40 years have gone by since the pioneering days.

Scotty

M. Scott Carptenter (CDR, USN, Ret.) flew the second Mercury orbital flight, Aurora 7. Many say he had more fun in his single spaceflight than some astronauts had in their whole careers. He was the first to examine the new space environment first hand, rather than focus solely on the technical/engineering aspects of spaceflight. He is known as a more thoughtful and reflective man, rather than the more traditional gung-ho fighter pilot stereotype. We found him to be soft-spoken, but very personable and outgoing. (Mercury-Atlas 7 "Aurora 7" Commander)

 

 

Wally

Walter M. Schirra, Jr., (CAPT, USN, Ret.) whom everyone just calls "Wally," is the smilingest guy you'll ever meet. He is the legendary master joker of the group - more or less having invented the legendary pranks called "Gotcha's!" He is a wonderful storyteller, and claims he remembers the very first joke he ever heard in childhood. Buy this gentleman a beverage (he just drank water), and he will chat you up all night like an old friend. And he loves Hawaiian print shirts. Yes, he's a fun guy, but as an astronaut, he is legendary for how serious he took the job. He is famous as the only spaceman to fly and lead all three original US spacecraft series. (Mercury-Altas 8 "Sigma 7," Gemini VI, and Apollo 7 Commander)

 

Mercury 8? Bill (Jose)

Comedian and actor Bill Dana was often called "The Eighth Astronaut - Out of Seven." The Mercury Seven were some of his biggest fans, and often joined him in his act. Perhaps Bill's most famous character was a frightened astronaut named Jose Jimenez, who coined a number of classic lines about the dangers of rocket travel. During Alan Shepard's historic first launch in May 1961, Deke Slayton calls "You're on your way, Jose!" as Shepard leaves the pad, in a good-natured wish for a safe ride. Mr. Dana was getting some "background information" on us from Al Worden (see below), sitting on his left, as he signed our album (image: left). So he inscribed the cover "with 'intelligent' love." (Character of Astronaut Jose Jimenez)

 


Gemini and Apollo

Buzz

Dr. Buzz Aldrin, who was still officially Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. (Col, USAF, Ret.) in his NASA days, is one of the most famous men of the 20th century. And he is one of the most tireless ambassadors of the space program you'll ever meet. Known as a very driven professional, and strategic thinker, some have found his presence a bit intimidating. When he noticed I was a fellow retired Air Force officer, he asked where I had been stationed, we noted we had both been in Korea. "Oh yeah, what years?" he asked. "1986-87, at Osan, 51st Fighter Wing," I replied. "Hmm, well I was at K-13 in '52. A bit more shooting going on then" he noted wryly. Of course, he won two Distinguished Flying Crosses shooting down enemy aircraft in the Korean War. Yes, it was a lot quieter 30 years later! My "first contact" with Buzz took place at Cape Canaveral in 1999, when he gave me a hard stare when photographing him. I wrote then I hoped I'd have a chance to take his measure more accurately in the future, and was fortunate that took just 7 years! Though he is a great success as "Buzz, Incorporated," those harder edges people describe from years past seem to have mellowed. I found him just a tiny bit erudite, but casual and friendly. (Gemini XII Pilot, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot)

 

Dick

Richard "Dick" F. Gordon, Jr, (CAPT, USN, Ret.) is what we call a real hoot! He is gregarious, funny, and always provides lots of friendly heckling for his colleagues. And he still turns on the charm around the ladies. He is the surviving member of the great Gemini and Apollo partnership with his best friend Charles "Pete" Conrad, who died in an accident in 1999. We chatted a little about the changes in the military presence in San Antonio over the years, and he said he sure liked his Air Force dentist at the now closed Kelly AFB. I laughed, saying a Navy guy would only trust a Air Force guy with his teeth, not his airplane! (Gemini XI Pilot, Apollo 12 Command Module Pilot)

 

 

Gene-O

I had the privilege of meeting Eugene A. Cernan (CAPT, USN, Ret.) in 1999 during his book tour for "The Last Man on the Moon." Like his colleague Buzz, Gene is one of the most visible faces in space program outreach and education, sharing his unique experiences with thousands of people every year. Captain Cernan has a very smooth and pleasant manner, and has always been one of my favorite Apollo astronauts. When signing my Moon globe, he turned it to determine the latitude and longitude of his landing site, but could not immediately find Taurus-Littrow. I mentioned I had it marked with a Post-It note, but the valley was actually hidden behind the yellow sticky. "You seem to know more about where it is than me," he noted. "I doubt that very much, Sir" I replied with a smile. I do look at it through my telescope from time to time, but it's sure not the same as driving the place in a Lunar Rover. (Gemini IX Pilot, Apollo 10 Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 17 Commander)

 

Bean-O

Alan L. Bean (CAPT, USN, Ret.) is widely known as one of the nicest of all the Apollo era astronauts. He was the second Moonwalker I ever met, just after I met Gene Cernan in 1999. I mentioned I'd forgotten to bring his art book for signing back then, and he kind of laughed that I remembered that from what seemed so long ago. Like then, he gave each visitor a genuine dose of personal time, and took a moment to chat about his art and recent activities. As he handed back a Saturn V model stand he just signed in the more difficult to handle silver ink, he took the piece back, and remarked it wasn't quite the way he wanted. That sort of precision and aesthetic is a remarkable blend in this gentleman astronaut. Yep, that's what you get when you cross an artist with an engineer. (Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot and Skylab 2 Commander)

 

Al W

Alfred M. Worden, (Col, USAF, Ret.) was sort of our Godfather the whole weekend. When I mentioned we were putting part of of his signed contribution into a display at Goodfellow AFB (San Angelo, Texas), he started asking more about my wife and my Air Force backgrounds. When we told him we'd worked in intelligence, he began calling us "spooks," which is a legacy term many Vietnam-era pilots called their intelligence officers. Every time we'd see him: at the bar, in the signing room, in the corridors, he'd shout "there are those spooks again!" It was all very good natured of course, and we told him our disguises must have stopped working. (Note Flight Director Gene Kranz in the background between us, image: near left). Al was the anchor presentation on Friday afternoon, giving a great animated talk about flying to the Moon, and especially the sensations and feelings. He joked that the best part of the mission was when Dave Scott and Jim Irwin left for the lunar surface, because he could finally have some peace and quiet and get some work done! Notably, he is current chairman of the Astronaut Hall of Fame Scholarship Foundation, and took every opportunity to promote this fine development program for top students. (Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot)

Walt

R. Walter Cunningham flew as a NASA civilian, having been a former US Marine Corps aviator. Of course, Walt kidded us "poor Air Force guys," including his colleague Rusty Schwieckart seated to his right. Besides having to work for Wally the tough commander, Walt wrote a superb book called "The All-American Boys." The newest (2003) edition includes some straight talk for the NASA hierarchy. I chatted with him a little while about this work, and he asked what I thought about it. I told him the straightforward, no-BS style was the best part. He smiled and replied that's what most everyone says. Nowadays we all tend to worry about what our managment thinks. But an Apollo pioneer with strong opinions, rare NASA inside-track stories, and honest, non-politically correct views... well, he writes a great book. (Apollo 7 Lunar Module Pilot)

 

Rusty

Russell L. Schweickart (former USAF), was also one of our few civilian astronauts from the Apollo era. He's not quite as rusty on top, but he's very easy-going and quick to chat about where we should be going in space. As part of the pioneering Apollo crews, he did the first multi-man spacewalk (with Dave Scott), and was the first to test wear the A7-L moonsuit in open space. He took quite an interest in both EVA training and space biomedical studies, having been one of the first to experience what we now call Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS). He was heavily involved in the Skylab program, rehearsing the complex repair procedures in the big NASA water tank, as well as serving as back-up Skylab 1 Commander. (Apollo 9 Lunar Module Pilot)

 

Ed

Dr. Edgar D. Mitchell (CAPT, USN, Ret.) is a very animated and interesting man, given his well-recorded explorations of the limits of science, and unusual phenomena. Ed reminded me of those great university professors, who has the class everyone wants to attend. He is the last member of the Apollo 14 crew, since the untimely passing of Alan Shepard in 1998, and Stu Roosa in 1994. (Apollo 14 Lunar Module Pilot)

 

 

Dave

Even though he was the first of the Third Astronaut Group to fly, I've saved David R. Scott (Col, USAF, Ret.) for last. Good fortune brought us the privilege of sitting at his table for dinner. As Commander of the only all Air Force crew to fly to, and land on the Moon, he holds a special place in my service's history. Besides, if someone told me I'd ever get the chance to have dinner with the first man to drive an automobile on the Moon, I'd have wistfully said "Yeah, as if !" Our table even included another space enthusiast named Dave Scott (his name tag was subtitled "Not the Astronaut"), as well as several other collectors and their wives. I had the honor of sitting next to Dave's very lovely wife "Mags" Black-Scott (image: center right), thus just one seat away from Col Scott. Mrs Scott is managing director of a large financial company in Los Angeles, where the Scott's now reside. I mentioned my great-grandfather's name was John Scott, so adding all the numbers, we had six Scott distant cousins around the table! When Dave was introduced, this extended Scott clan applauded and hooted loudly.

Dave starts out a little more quietly than some of his colleagues, but warms up quickly. His wonderful business manager Victoria Campbell, also at our table, even calls him a bit shy. He has a wonderful way of explaining his unique experiences. He helps frame answers to questions about the lunar environment by reminding us that frame of reference is critical, and an Earth-relative basis isn't always useful. When pressed to answer how fast he drove the Lunar Rover, he joked "fast enough to make Jim Irwin nervous," and that the max speed was "around 100 % on the gauge!" He talked at length how the lunar surface is completely uneven, no flat spaces at all, and that there simply was no earthly analog. More locally, we talked about changes in San Antonio since he grew up here as part of a military family, and the status of the various military bases in Texas. As a pioneering explorer, he is quick to note the relative pauses between the great voyages of exploration, and that we will get back to the Moon and on the Mars, but we can't be in a big hurry - it's just not the way history flows. He said he found the current NASA Apollo-on-Steroids model for getting back to the Moon is a sound one, having flown the design to the near the limit, twice. Dave was very complementary of his crewmate Al Worden, noting he did a superb job flying a three man ship alone, and running the first ever Scientific Instrument Module Bay (SIM Bay) - a complex lunar survey and sensor suite installed in the Apollo Service Module. All this even after we told him what Al had said about kicking him and Jim Irwin off the ship!

And we couldn't miss discussing his work in Hollywood, as technical advisor to both wonderful film and television efforts: "Apollo 13," and "From the Earth to the Moon." Despite our best attempts to get some "Hollywood dirt," Dave was extremely complementary of the Ron Howard and Tom Hanks teams, describing them as excellent leaders and superb professionals. He said he did his best to let the actors act, saying he wanted actor Brett Cullen, who portrayed him in FTETTM, to just get out there and do his thing. Notably, the actors asked many "what was this astronaut really like" questions, as well as technical "how to fly a spacecraft" stuff. We were all happy to hear the scenes in the FTETTM Apollo 15 episode "Galileo Was Right" accurately portrayed Col Scott's experiences in learning geology, talking about a landing site, and walking where only 6 other men had been before him.

In all, Col and Mrs Scott were just plain delightful people, no matter their many personal and professional successes, and it's hard to imagine anything nicer than an enjoyable and insightful dinner with them. (Gemini XIII Pilot, Apollo 9 Command Module Pilot, Apollo 15 Commander)


Skylab

Jack

Jack R. Lousma (Col, USMC, Ret.) flew with Alan Bean as Skylab 2 Pilot. As we talked, I mentioned I saw him when he gave an address at the University of Missouri back in 1981. He was still an active duty Colonel, and made quite an impression on the ROTC midshipmen and cadets. He smiled and said he remembered that visit, and we chatted about that being the early heyday of the Space Shuttle program, and the excitement of a new phase in flight. (Skylab 2 Pliot, STS-3 Commander)

 

 

 

Jerry

Gerald P. Carr, (Col, USMC, Ret.) commanded Skylab 4, the final, record-breaking 84 day long duration flight. He also test flew the Manned Manuvering Unit (MMU) - the Shuttle era rocket backpack - inside Skylab's big upstairs dome. I'm holding a photo of that flight, in which Jerry has an explorer's beard, and very thin legs from the effects of fluid migration and long term microgravity living. I told him my wife picked out which photo to sign because she was admiring his legs, and he laughed and dedicated the photo to us from "Old Bird Legs!" We talked for a little while about the MMU technology and how easy it was to fly. His recommendations had almost everything to do with convincing NASA management to proceed with development of the system for the Shuttle program. Col Carr was a very jovial, and enjoyed trading friendly barbs with his Science-Pilot colleague below. (Skylab 4 Commander)

 

 

Ed G

Dr. Edward G. Gibson, an astrophysicist, was one of NASA's first Scientist-Astronauts, who competed among the pilots for those limited numbers of mission seats. As an expert in studying the Sun, he was instrumental in working Skylab's unique Apollo Telescope Mount to best advantage. He was the first Sklyab crew member I approached, noting the Skylab guys were harder to find in the exhibit hall. Ed smiled and noted that "you just aren't getting the whole story without our program!" While still talking to his commander (above), I asked Dr. Gibson if he got extra money for having to work for a Marine, and he laughed "Heck yes, we got hazardous duty pay!" We chatted about how it took NASA an awfully long to get more scientists into space, and how that should be better as we go back to the Moon. My wife thought Ed had changed the least between his 1972 photo, and 2006. Oh, ladies still admire these handsome astronauts... (Skylab 4 Science Pilot)

 


Space Shuttle Era

Bruce

Bruce McCandless II (CAPT, USN, Ret.) is the most famous astronaut image of the Shuttle program, being the first man to fly free, untethered, in Earth orbit. He not only spoke about the experience of this unique flight test, but gave much credit to his colleague Jerry Carr, whom we had just spoken with about the prior "indoor" Skylab tests of the Manned Manuevering Unit rocket-pack. He joked at being glad they didn't fly off and leave him in orbit, and said he was really really pleased his spacewalking partner Robert "Hoot" Gibson took that famous photograph! We told him he sure made that complex first flight look easy. And going back to his other famous role, we can never forget his immortal words as CAPCOM on the evening of 20 July 1969: "OK, Neil, we can see you coming down the ladder now." (STS-41B Mission Specialist, STS-31 Mission Specialist)

 


The Cosmonauts

Valentina

The First Woman in Space poses with the First Woman of My Heart (I'm not a poet). And they were both in their countries' Air Forces. Valentina V. Tereshkova (Major General, Soviet Air Force, Ret.) had quite an amazing early career: imagine being a 20-something young Soviet Air Force officer, a parachutist rather than a pilot, then being asked to ride a rocket for your country! What a truly wonderful honor meeting this pioneering woman cosmonaut! Madame Tereshkova looked radiant, and several people wondered if she knew of some secret Russian spa treatment! The language challenge meant simple communications like "Baikonour!", thus she indicated where some of the photos were taken as I was choosing one for her to sign. I selected one of her in her pressure suit saluting her superiors prior to walking to the launch pad. I could only say "hello" and "thank you" in Russian, but when the translator told her my wife was also an Air Force officer, she lit right up and said that was wonderful! (Vostok 6 Commander)

 

Pavel

This gentleman is the 8th human in space, Pavel R. Popovich (Major General, Soviet Air Force, Ret.) He was friendly, and seemed quicker to consult his translator as a chat relay. On behalf of fellow space collector Dennis Falci, I asked the translator if General Popovich would sign a baseball. He seemed amused at this uniquely American object, and the translator said it was the first Pavel has signed. Score another one for international aerospace relationships! (Vostok 4 Commander, Soyuz 14 Commander)

 

Alexei and Valeri

Here are two very celebrated space voyagers: together they were the crew of the first ever US-USSR joint flight, flying Soyuz 19 in the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Alexei Leonov (Major General, Soviet Air Force, Ret.) was of course the first man to walk in space, and many believe he would have been Russia's first Moonwalker had they continued their manned lunar program (image left: center). General Leonov is a Renaissance man; an athlete, long-time Chief of Cosmonauts, and a self-taught artist. His English is very good, and he quickly translated my fumbled Russian greeting into "Good Morning!" He was easily the most comfortable of his colleagues, owing to his considerable time spent in the US. Alexei looks exactly like who you'd get if someone went down to the casting office and said "find me a Cowboy from Siberia!" Valeri Kubasov, an engineer cosmonaut (image left: right), was much more reserved than his commander, and may not have been as happy with a room full of gushing Western space fanatics. But he smiled and greeted me, and helped me pronounce the words from my Russian pointee-talkee language aid. (Voshkod 2 Pilot, Soyuz 19 Commander; Soyuz 6 Flight Engineer, Soyuz 19 Flight Engineer, Soyuz 36 Commander)

 


Mission Operations

Gene

This extraordinary man is known by the most heralded title in NASA Mission Operations: "White Flight." Just being around him is electric! I've always felt, like many many others, that Mr. Eugene F. Kranz (image: center) is the finest leader NASA ever had. He began his career as an Air Force fighter pilot, and ended up fighting the Cold War in the High Frontier. Gene took on the incredible task of building the team, the methods, the procedures, and the technology to become the lifeblood of manned space missions we call Mission Control. Though he is always quick to point out he one was one a team of superb flight directors, his distinctive bearing, famous vests (image: right), commanding voice, and herculean deeds as White Flight make him a true living legend. He's just so genuine. You couldn't help but be inspired by his straight-arrow manner, unabashed patriotism, and incredible energy! As his colleague Sy Liebergot (image: left) noted in his Apollo 13 talk: "Gene just got everyone juiced!" When I asked if he wouldn't mind a picture, he thrust out his hand and said in that unmistakable voice "Gimmee some skin, partner!" I felt like some of his dynamic power shot right up my arm! As this was his first, and perhaps only autograph show, everyone stood in line as long as it took to meet him. He gave so much personal time with every guest, really making a human connection. A very touching story came out of this convention: a 10 year old boy named Jack, who had saved and done chores so that he could pay for Gene's autograph, began counting out quarters. Mr. Kranz had a tear in his eye and a grin on his face as he watched. He then told the young man to "Put those quarters back in your pocket and give me a high ten." As the boy and his father we about to leave, Gene grabbed young Jack by the hand and said "Young man it has been such a pleasure to visit with you. I want to tell you something I want you to remember." Everyone waited in anticipation while he paused and said "Always reach for the stars." That so beautifully shows what makes up Gene Kranz. All of his autograph proceeds went to charity. (Flight Director, Chief Flight Operations Division, Deputy Director and then Director of NASA Mission Operations)

 

Sy (and Clint)

Don't let the classic 1960's style glasses fool you: they're just getting into character and clowning around with their fans. Many of us knew of this gentleman (image: far left) well before the popular 1995 film "Apollo 13." In this incredible story, a young man sitting in the Electrical, Environmental and Communications (EECOM) chair is instrumental in keeping the crew and spacecraft sustained through an unparalleled five day in-flight emergency. Seymour A. Liebergot, whom everyone knows as "Sy," personifies the brilliant and dedicated mission controllers, who as very young engineers were charged with the success of the missions and the crew's very lives. They had to receive, interpret, analyze, assess, and report thousands of data elements and provide their Flight Directors an immediate recommendation on the health of the world's most complex flying machines and every subsystem in them! Not only has Sy written "Apollo EECOM: Journey of a Lifetime" - the definitive work on being in the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) - he has overseen and developed a detailed, authoritative mulitmedia event chronical "Apollo 13: A Race Against Time." Sy's Friday afternoon briefing, in which he talked us through an incredible first person account of the crisis, was a highlight of the convention. Contrasting the seriousness of his deeds at NASA is his self-depricating humor and goofing around with his Hollywood alter ego. (EECOM, Assistant Flight Director)

Actor Clint Howard, who portrayed Sy in the film, was a very down to Earth guy. He and Sy are nothing alike in real life, but Clint's heartfelt and accurate depiction was both a key role in the movie, and testimony to the newfound friendship of the controller and the actor. Clint was fun to talk with, and chatted about some of his upcoming movie work, as well as his classic characters. Some of us remember him from childhood roles like "Gentle Ben," in which he worked with a large brown bear. (Role of "White EECOM" in the film "Apollo 13")

 


Mission Support

Guenter

Imagine being the last man the astronauts see prior to beginning their voyage? Imagine being the man who made sure everything at the launch pad was shipshape and ready to go prior to a manned launch? Here is a man who personifies the hard work, diligence, and utter professionalism of the entire manned spaceflight team: government, industry, advisors, and support personnel. This dapper gentleman is Mr. Guenter Wendt, aka the Pad Leader. I greeted him formally in German, the only other language I can speak, and he replied in kind as we shook hands. Guenther still beams as he discusses the challenges of the early days at the Cape. We talked about his wonderful "Unbroken Chain" metaphor - also his book title - which he uses to describe the interrelated nature and importance of every person who worked in the space program. His work describes the troubles he had as a McDonnell and later North American employee working for NASA on an Air Force base. I told he we were both Air Force, and that I knew he didn't always have good luck with them in the Mercury and Gemini days. He laughed and told us he was only mad at the former base commander who gave him so much pushback about putting up an additional US national flag near a main gate! Guenther knew that every man and woman was proud of their part, and treated people as such. He told us about how he talked to the gentlemen who swept the floors, and invited them all up the gantry for a tour of the spacecraft, as thanks for doing their part. (Pad Leader)

 

Dee

I was in the bar line, when a really delightful red-headed woman noticed my military lapel pin, and asked about my service background. She smiled and hugged my arm and said, "I was an Air Force nurse!" It took me a half second to realize who she had to be! Truly, this lovely lady is a pioneer in space medicine: Dee O'Hara. She was the nurse for the Mercury 7, while still on active duty, and became a NASA government employee soon after. She told the tale of being between worlds: having resigned her commission to accept a NASA position, but being unable to move to Houston because the Manned Spacecraft Center was not yet accepting new employees. We compared notes on how crazy federal hiring freezes and large bureaucracies can be. I told her NASA had better have given her one heck of an award for putting up with all Wally Schirra's crap! She laughed and said NASA actually took very good care of her. I kept offering to buy her a drink, but she kept saying no thank you because she already had a drink ticket. However, she did chastize Al Worden for apparently cutting in line at the bar. He actually was just having his girlfriend, who was already in line, buy him a round. But I told him Dee wanted a blood alcohol content check regardless! (Astronaut Nurse)

 

Cece

Ms Cece Bibby is the talented artist who painted mission insignia on the early spacecraft. I also met her in the line at the bar with her friend Dee. What a delight to have these two charming space history ladies at my side while surrounded by scores of astronauts! Ms Bibby has that mischievious sparkle common to creative people, and I bet the flight crews gave her a lot of admiring glances. Cece had several examples of he work at the show, including some naughty cartoons ("Oh, yes, my space porn," she laughed.) I decided to go for the "artist at work" shot instead. (NASA Artist)

 

 

 


The Next Generation

Brian

Here's a spaceman about my age. Though all of the previous fliers were part of large national efforts to reach space, here is one of just two current private space pilots in the world. Brian Binnie (former US Navy) flew the record-breaking Rutan-Scaled Composites Team's SpaceShipOne flight, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004. We talked briefly about the flight conditions out at Mojave Spaceport, and how much we're all looking forward to phase two of his team's program to bring space travel into the realm of normal folks. They sure have a cool looking spacecraft, and it has room for passengers like us. I wish them very very well in their efforts. (Pilot SpaceShipOne)

 


The Reunions

While the astronauts worked long hours together over many years, we tend to forget they don't work in the same state or country any longer. Often they see each other at these gatherings as well as being there to greet us. So you can imagine what happens when Gene Cernan just pops by our table to introduce some folks to Dave Scott (image: left); or Buzz starts describing something pretty exciting with Al Bean (image: right); or when cosmonaut Alexei Leonov starts hamming it up with his old buddy (image: center), Gene!

Parting Words: If you're a space enthisiast, and you ever get a chance to go to one of these shows, you simply cannot miss it! it's a lifetime event.