On May the 5th in 1961 when I was 11 years old (about a month after meeting President-elect Kennedy with my dad on flight down to Palm Beach) I pretended to be sick so that I could watch the Alan Shepard space shot
on TV, the first of the ‘Mercury 7’ astronauts to go on a mission. It took Shepard into space for some 15 minutes. I sat on the floor in my pajamas in our Bronx apartment in front of our small black & white television screen that was encased within a large wooden
console. I did the same for John Glenn’s orbital flight in February, 1962 and made it my business to watch as many other launches throughout the years as I could, the Gemini program, the Apollo program and the Space Shuttle program.
I never got tired of it and took special pleasure in the slowness of the coverage, the experts consulted, the repetition when nothing in particular was going on. There was something in the thoroughness employed by
NASA that was also extremely satisfying. I loved knowing what the astronauts had for breakfast and admired their amazing cool and grace under pressure. When I learned to fly I came to understand the particular world of pilots, the way
the machinery and procedure flow into each other seamlessly, the pleasure taken in preparation.
I clearly remember watching the Apollo 11 launch and the moon landing, on a color TV in my first apartment on Christopher Street on July, 1969.
As I got older I lost track of the different space shots but my passion for the whole endeavor has never left me.
Then last week, on vacation in a small beach town in Galicia, Spain, while checking my cell phone I realized the final Shuttle launch was going to take place and I managed to catch it live on my little screen. There I was, far from just about everywhere, fifty years after watching
that first launch of the Atlas booster in black & white, watching the final US manned space mission, for what will be a long time, on my iPhone.
Back in Madrid now. The crew is still up there with the international space station as I prepare to move back to the States after a ten-year stay here. The day I fly across the Atlantic to Boston the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be landing at Cape Kennedy.
Life goes on.
The Atlantic is my ocean.
I love both sides of it.
I will miss this side a lot.