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  Americans in Orbit - 45 Years Later

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Author Topic:   Americans in Orbit - 45 Years Later
Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-02-2007 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From NASA TV's This Week @ NASA, Week Ending Feb. 2:
quote:
John Glenn - HQ

John Glenn: "...It just seems like it was last week instead of 45 years ago."

Former NASA astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn was at NASA Headquarters to tape an interview about the Mercury Program and his historic 1962 flight aboard Friendship 7.

John Glenn: "...Roger, Zero G and I feel fine. The capsule is turning around."

NASA marks the 45th anniversary of Humans on Orbit on February 20 with a series of multimedia products that feature Glenn, Wally Schirra and Scott Carpenter. The three are the surviving members of the original class of seven Mercury astronauts.


Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-16-2007 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
quote:
NASA Marks 45th Anniversary of Americans in Orbit

NASA commemorates the 45th anniversary of Americans in orbit with a special multimedia salute to the original Mercury astronauts and new interviews with Sen. John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Walter Schirra.

On Feb. 20, 1962, an Atlas rocket successfully carried Glenn and the hopes of an entire nation into orbit aboard Friendship 7, a flight that ushered in a new era of space travel that eventually led to Americans walking on the moon by the end of the 1960s. "Glenn's achievement came at a time when there were many unknowns about the ability of humans to survive in space," said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale.

Glenn was soon followed into orbit by colleagues Carpenter, Schirra and Gordon Cooper. Their fellow Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard and Virgil "Gus" Grissom flew earlier suborbital flights, and Donald "Deke" Slayton was grounded by a medical condition until the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

NASA remembers the achievements of its first generation of explorers through special programming and interviews on NASA Television and an extraordinary interactive feature on the agency's Internet site, www.nasa.gov, beginning at noon EST, Friday.

A half-hour program that highlights the achievements of Mercury and the 45th anniversary of Americans in orbit will be broadcast on NASA TV. Extended interviews with surviving Mercury astronauts Glenn, Carpenter and Schirra also will be available on NASA TV's Video File feeds for media organizations, as will a special message from the Expedition 14 crew orbiting Earth on board the International Space Station.

The interactive Internet feature is hosted by NASA astronaut Carl Walz and will offer a rare virtual look inside Glenn's Mercury spacecraft, which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Images from a rare photo shoot inside the tiny Friendship 7 capsule provides a 360-degree tour of the spacecraft. Plus, users can select the questions answered by veteran space explorers Glenn, Carpenter and Schirra.

To experience the 45th anniversary of Americans in Orbit multimedia feature, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mercury


ejectr
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posted 02-16-2007 12:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been watching the programs being broadcast on NASA TV. What a joy to watch.

I look back at those magical days with such great admiration to all those involved and I find myself wanting those days of space exploration and travel back so bad it hurts.

spacecraft films
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posted 02-16-2007 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spacecraft films   Click Here to Email spacecraft films     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you want to compound that, pick up our Mercury 6 DVD set with over 24 hours of wonderful stuff - in new transfers - on Project Mercury.

Mark

ejectr
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posted 02-16-2007 02:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mark...I do own that great Mercury DVD set and watch it quite often. It also makes my heart yearn for those romantic first days of space travel.

ejectr
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posted 02-17-2007 08:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Watching the interactive interview with Wally Schirra, it was interesting to hear his inside and educated opinion regarding competition between the seven of them.

I remember somewhere in these archives someone mentioning adamently that they were not "buddies" but co-workers competing against each other. I couldn't believe or fathom that.

I'm glad to hear it in Wally's own words from the inside and educated that it is true they were indeed all "buddies" and he did not see any competitiveness amongst the seven.

[Edited by ejectr (February 17, 2007).]

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-17-2007 02:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ejectr:
I'm glad to hear it in Wally's own words from the inside and educated that they were indeed all "buddies" and he did not see any competitiveness amongst the seven.
Francis French interviewed Schirra in 2002 for his article "'I worked with NASA, not for NASA'", wherein he also addressed the subject of competitiveness:
quote:
While the group had this deep level of trust, they could also be fiercely competitive with each other, each trying to prove that they were the best at everything. No weaknesses would be admitted to. For example, Deke Slayton began scuba training without revealing that he could not swim.

"Deke Slayton was the best diver we had - he went right to the bottom! Gus Grissom and I had to pull him off the bottom, and help him tread water. In the movie 'The Right Stuff', they showed him cavorting with some girls in a water tank in a bar - the last person you'd really have put in that tank would be Deke Slayton! He was a farm boy out of Wisconsin. A river or a cistern was about the nearest thing he saw with water.

"Our competition was like sibling rivalry almost, but we bonded completely, and forever."

...The competition between the astronauts was to try and get that coveted first spaceflight. Schirra was devastated not to be the one picked.

"We all were, I'm afraid. That was a lot of competition we had. It was just one of those philosophies that gets to you. Each test pilot I know considers him, or herself - now that there are women - to be the very best. It's very demeaning to step down the ladder once in a while. You feel filtered out. But I really think I had a better flight because of the delay."


Alan Shepard addressed the competition among his fellow Mercury astronauts in his JSC Oral History:
quote:
Well it was an interesting situation because, as I say, I was friendly with several of them. And on the other hand, realizing that I was now competing with these guys, so there was always a sense of caution I suppose — particularly talking about technical things. Now in the bar everything changed, but in talking about technical things there was always a sense of maybe a little bit of reservation, not being totally frank with each other, because there was this very strong sense of competition...

Well, you know, it was an interesting situation getting together with the seven originals for the first time. And, of course, having known some of them before, with the Navy connections, but yet all of a sudden realizing that here was competition. There were seven guys competing for the first job, whatever that turned out to be. Seven guys going for that one job. So on the one hand there was a sense of friendliness and maybe some support, but on the other hand, "Hey, I hope the rest of you guys are happy because I'm going to make the first flight." [Laughter]


These are just two examples, of which I believe there are more in books such as The Real Space Cowboys that cite direct interviews with members of the seven that support that an atmosphere of competition did indeed exist among the Mercury astronauts.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 02-17-2007 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
ejectr sighed....

"I remember somewhere in these archives someone mentioning adamently that they were not "buddies" but co-workers competing against each other. I couldn't believe or fathom that.

"I'm glad to hear it in Wally's own words from the inside and educated that it is true they were indeed all "buddies" and he did not see any competitiveness amongst the seven."

Nonsense. Schirra is speaking close to fifty years after the fact through a haze of nostalgia in a NASA program. You can 'fathom' or not, as you wish, but there is a substantial body of testimony _from the
'buddies' themselves about their competitiveness.

Michael Cassutt

ejectr
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posted 02-17-2007 03:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did I miss something or did I just dream what I saw and heard him say in the video interview...........

Through nostalgia or whatever it was, it's what HE said. So am I to believe less what he is saying this time or last time?

Michael Cassutt
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posted 02-17-2007 03:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ejectr added,

"Did I miss something or did I just dream what I saw and heard him say in the video interview........... Through nostalgia or whatever it was, it's what HE said. So am I to believe less what he is saying this time or last time?"

Try placing Schirra's comments in the proper context....

Michael Cassutt, co-author "DEKE!", co-author WE HAVE CAPTURE, author WHO'S WHO IN SPACE

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-17-2007 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What is said during one interview cannot always be taken as the final or only word. As Michael suggests, context is important. This interview was intended as a brief overview of the Mercury program for a wide audience on the occasion of an anniversary celebration. It is not the medium one would expect for a more in depth discussion of inter-personnel relationships.

There exists a good number of sources for other interviews with the surviving Mercury astronauts, from magazines to biographies, oral histories and documentaries. The competition amongst the Mercury 7 was spoken about by most, if not all the astronauts involved. Its also well documented that their friendship grew after the program ended.

While its tempting to view the seven original astronauts as a band of brothers, their individual histories before joining NASA and their own statements since suggest a different history. That they choose to emphasize their camaraderie today for the public is understandable and perhaps appropriate for the audience.

ejectr
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posted 02-17-2007 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Robert.....very well and respectfully put.

KC Stoever
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posted 02-18-2007 10:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On edit: I'm looking forward to seeing the NASA TV interview.... Re-reading the thread, I'm struck by the sharpness of some of the exchanges, for which I'm sorry and I offer the anecdote below only to bring a little levity to the discussion. Some general observations:

The passage of time (and the deaths of four of the seven principals) undoubtedly softens the edges of these old rivalries.

Yet the cameraderie fifty years ago (felt by some more than others) also worked to soften the sharp elbows of rivalry. That cameraderie, in fact, probably kept those elbows aimed only at the metaphorical ribs and not at eyes and noses.

OK. Here's the levity-inducing anecdote about the famously friendly Carpenter and Glenn:

The competitive fires may be banked, but they can still flare to life in an instant.

A few years back, Scott Carpenter ruefully considered the front cover of his brand-new paperback, FOR SPACIOUS SKIES, which was emblazoned with John Glenn's praise: "One of America's modern heroes!"

"What's John doing on my front cover?" Carpenter asked. And you know what? He wasn't even kidding.

Best,
Kris Stoever

[Edited by KC Stoever (February 18, 2007).]

FFrench
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posted 02-18-2007 03:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KC Stoever:
"What's John doing on my front cover?" Carpenter asked. And you know what? He wasn't even kidding.

Believe me, it could have been worse... I'm not sure what the late Al Shepard would have made of the recent book about his life, Neal Thompson's "Light This Candle" - but I'm guessing he would certainly have had an issue with the front cover. For the paperback, the publisher (not the author) chose a Mercury Atlas launch image - a rocket that Shepard never flew. I'm not sure which launch it shows (can anyone identify it?) - it could be unmanned - but it's quite possibly the launch of one of his Mercury colleagues - which no doubt would have provoked some good-natured teasing if Shepard were still around!

Here is the cover: http://www.amazon.com/Light-This-Candle-Times-Shepard/dp/140008122X/sr=1-2/

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