Performing a maintenance routine for equipment topside on the USS PETERSON as it arrived in port on a sunny Spring morning thirty years ago was actually fortunate timing. We were just tying up at the naval pier not far from the launch site where NASA’s missions to the moon had flown. But that morning was an unexpected treat. At nearly the same time as we moored, a Space Shuttle roared off the launch pad.
I had been a fan of space flight ever since I the middle Sixties when I had watched the Gemini and Apollo launches on a television wheeled into our elementary school classroom. In the 1980s, I had been with a group of college students touring the Johnson Spaceflight Center near Houston during a national convention of the Theta Tau engineering fraternity. Living in Tucson, Arizona in the early Eighties, I also saw an early Shuttle (the Enterprise(?)) being flown piggyback on its modified 747 airline as it routed through Davis-Monthan AFB on the way back to the Cape. And in four years prior to my assignment aboard the PETERSON, I was stationed in the Washington DC area, where one of the tasks our department performed was to install a mobile van with equipment to communicate with the Shuttle as it orbited the Earth during a particular mission. Being in the Capitol region also gave me opportunities to visit the Air and Space Museum where visitors could walk into a mockup of the first orbiting space station, SkyLab, and to see many exhibits, including items returned from the Apollo Moon missions.
With my grandchildren not yet old enough to appreciate the excitement I felt watching spacecraft launching toward the Moon, I am glad that the first ARTEMIS mission to the Moon is still a few years away. Perhaps when they are my age, they will not have thirty- or fifty-year old memories to recall when we reached for space.