I had the great privilege to grow up in the ’50s & ’60s. Sure, the threat of nuclear annihilation at any moment was a pain in the rear and the Cuban Missile Crisis gave one pause but still, there was some real exciting stuff going on like Sputnik, Explorer 1 and the Mercury programme. Those early satellite launches were more the stuff of morning newspapers and the six o’clock news than live coverage. But with the advent of the Mercury manned launches, live coverage quickly became the norm.

So where does my mother fit into space flight? Well, she was the one to wake me and my brother up early in the morning so we could all huddle around our black and white TV to watch the launch preparations and hear that the launch had been scrubbed because a tube blew out in some equipment in some suddenly important tracking station on some island that we had never heard of. Delayed launches and non-launches were the order of the day back in those times and we often left for school with the count-down holding at T minus 2 hours or something like that.

Fortunately, we didn’t always miss the launch when it finally got around to happening. Educational TV was starting to pick up steam and soon, every classroom in DuPont Elementary school had access to a TV. This accessibility was brought home on Nov. 22, 1963 when our principal’s voice came over the PA system asking the teachers to turn on their TVs because there was something going on. Thus, we were able to watch that defining moment in television news when Walter Cronkite informed the nation that JFK had died in Dallas’ Parkland Hospital at 1:00 PM, CST.

Throughout the ’60s, Mom was our pre-launch alarm clock and we were able to watch most of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches; either at home or at school.. In 1969, we gathered around whatever dodgy black and white TV that my uncle had managed to find for us in Norfolk, VA and held our collective breath as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren became the first men to land on the moon. Mom had us put out the American flag while she set about making peanut butter cookies for that evening’s moon-walk.

My mother was responsible for my ongoing fascination with space flight even if she didn’t quite understand all the technical bits. Nonetheless, she eagerly looked at every photo and listened to every detail of the pilgrimage my wife and I made to Cape Canaveral.

My mother departed this planet for places unknown on Feb. 20th of this year; The 50th anniversary of John Glen’s flight in Friendship 7. Scott Carpenter’s famous voice-over “- God-speed, John Glen” – came to mind this morning as I watched the launch of a Delta IV Heavy rocket for the National Reconnaissance Office on my tablet; Technology that would have totally astounded my mother. As the rocket rose from the launch pad, I said to myself:”Thanks, Mom”.

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