My youth was marked with deep regard for the astronauts of the Apollo program.  Whenever there was a flight our family gathered around our television and watched the coverage.  It was exciting, patriotic and unifying for our entire nation.

From the Mercury program to the Apollo program, it was surreal to think that Americans were actually planning on landing on the moon.  Could it be done?  How can we avoid the dangers?  What would happen if something went wrong?

With every successful launch we cheered.  The conversation of how powerful that rockets were to propel a capsule into space.  We often talked about the brave men who volunteered to go into space and explore that vast reaches of the heavens.


When Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon, we joined those around the world in holding our breath.  Then, when his foot stepped on to the surface of the moon, we cheered.  It was an unforgettable national experience. 

Everyone talked about it.  The year was 1969 and became uniquely special for so many reasons.  It is forever etched in my mind.

Along with every other young man, working for NASA as a scientist was a dream.  But, only the best, never the minimum could hope to be a part of that team.  Calculus left me behind and the slide rule was never very friendly, but a young man can still dream.


Then, the novelty of space travel wore off quickly.  We took the success for granted.  It was now a routine of casual proportions. 

At least that is how it felt until the next year in 1970 when from Apollo 13 James Lovell reported, “Hey Houston we had a problem here.”  We all dropped what we were doing and again were riveted to the television. 

Each report we inhaled and held it until the next.  We prayed.  We hoped.  We worried.

The relief from welcoming these space explorers back to earth was heartfelt by every American.  Subsequently, the ingenuity of the NASA team made all of America proud.  The space program was again huge on the radar of some many studying for a career.

At the Johnson Space Center in Houston I reflected deeply over those years.  The lives of those lost in the space program, the close class and the achievements all brought great memories back to me.  God’s image in man is a wonder to behold.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography