So there I was sitting in my thinking chair on the back patio, thinking about Alan Shepard. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
When I first sat down, it was to escape…escape the horrible mood I was in after watching the latest conglomeration of breaking news. There was the latest tedious Trump tweet, then a bunch of yapping congressmen pontificating their plans to reduce Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to help make up for the big tax break the rich will get. Then there was the wall, OMG the wall! And, yikes, North Korea! Have times ever been more stressful and depressing than now? That’s why I headed for my thinking chair.
As I sat down, suddenly, NASA and the space program entered my thoughts and right away, I had good memories that immediately spawned good feelings. If you didn’t live through the peak years of the space program, it will be hard for you to “feel” all these good feelings it generated. It started with Sputnik, the Russian satellite that was the first man-made piece of technology successfully launched into space…that was back in 1958. Sputnik served as a wakeup call to America. And, indeed, did we ever wake up.
Alan Shepard was among the group of our country’s first astronauts—The Mercury 7. In fact, Shepard was the first among them to be shot off into space and returned safely. It was high drama as we citizens watched the space program progress from a mere three orbits around earth (John Glenn achieved that) to the ultimate accomplishment of Neil Armstrong setting his one small step for mankind into the moon’s surface.
Over the next decade, every event between Shepard’s launch and Armstrong’s footprint would attract our immediate attention. We stopped whatever we were doing and gathered around television sets to watch every incredible moment—both successful and disastrous. It was the ultimate must-see TV. These were times of great, documentable achievement by the nation. We, the people, soaked it all up—every ounce of its suspense, its spectacular visuals and the overwhelming sense of good feelings it gave us.
So that is what I was thinking as I sat in my thinking chair. Despite some moments of deep tragedy which reminded us that space exploration was, indeed, the new frontier, the program, overall, was one big gulp of Dr. Feelgood. I wish I had a bottle to pass around so we could all take a swig.