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Author Topic:   The future of space collecting
Rob Sumowski
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From: Macon, Georgia
Registered: Feb 2000

posted 05-28-2003 10:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Sumowski   Click Here to Email Rob Sumowski     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The future of our hobby: A case for concern

Dear Friends:

During a 13-hour drive from D.C. back to Georgia, fellow collector Gilbert Huey and I had several extensive conversations about the state of our hobby and possibilities for its future. Bill and Vickie OíDonnell, mutual friend Gary and I also had extensive conversations about this, and some of their input influenced this discussion.

This post is intended to relay concerns that arose during these discussions, and hopefully to begin a dialogue for all of us to consider as we contemplate the future of this hobby.

The issue: We space collectors comprise a finite group. There are between 400-500 active collectors involved in collectSPACE and the same number, many of whom are the same individuals, registered with a variety of online groups. Itís a fairly educated (and probably liberal) guesstimate that there may be approximately 1500 active collectors worldwide. Out of five billion people, weíre a pretty small population. Other than the exception of a small handful of younger collectors, the group largely appears to be confined to people aged from their thirties to their sixties. Given that we now live just 30-40 years after the main accomplishments of Mercury-Gemini-Apollo and most of the astronauts are still alive, this statistic is sobering.

We have all accumulated many items in an attempt to preserve the history of the early space program, however it seems evident that we, as a group, are aging with a minimum infusion of new blood. If this hobby is to last, and if the value of our collections is to endure and/or be enhanced, we must begin a concerted effort to expose this hobby to younger people: mainly those in their teens and twenties. Folks in this age group were born after the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo days, and far too many have very little knowledge of the accomplishments during this period in space history. If we donít share this history and invigorate in them a passion for collecting signed items by astronauts from this period, I fear the hobby could be in serious danger of decline over the next ten years. Iím not speaking of flown items, as I believe these items will always hold intrinsic value, in that these items actually touched history. Signatures and other collectibles, on the other hand, are not direct artifacts, rather are indirect.

If no one remembers a Charlie Duke or a Wally Schirra in ten to twenty years, where will the hobby go? Will there be a value in collecting? The audience interested in signers of the Declaration of Independence, great former congressional leaders, and war heroes has declined significantly. Itís shrinking because so few remember their respective accomplishments. Presidents seem to be the exception, as these signatures seem to hold their values pretty well.

Take a look at Civil War leaders, for example. Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and U.S. Grant seem to be well remembered (and therefore remain in demand), yet signatures of other leaders such as P.G.T. Beauregard, Edwin Stanton, and Ambrose Burnside hold little value to the general public, though thirty years after their own accomplishments, many of these were revered and collected as well. These fellows remained popular heroes among the public for years after their accomplishments, but now, whether we like it or not, very few remember them or care about their accomplishments. Sure, these signatures are extremely valuable to those who have studied this historical period in great depth, but unfortunately, these figures largely have been forgotten by average Americans.

I fear, given enough time without a sustenance of interest generated and shared by us with younger generations, this may well happen with our heroes from the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo period.

Itís a safe bet that Neil Armstrong will always be in demand. He will forever be remembered by the world as the first man to step foot on the moon. Buzz Aldrin has also seemed to remain fairly popular. But what about the other ten moonwalkers? And the rest of the pioneers whose signatures we stand in line to procure for increasing amounts of dollars and effort?

It dawned on me that I could walk into any restaurant, gathering, and even college classroom in my hometown, and itís very likely nobody would care a lick about the historical value of what I have collected. That scares me.

Iíll be the first to say I didnít begin collecting signatures because of their values, however I have realized, several thousands of dollars later, that these things are indeed valuable - both personally and monetarily. My collection isnít for sale, but I would like to hope that I havenít spent thousands for signed items that no one will perceive as valuable later. Somewhere along the line, these signatures have accumulated a monetary value. I donít know anyone who hopes that his or her collection will decrease in value. Iíd like to hope mine will increase and maybe my heirs will at least find some degree of demand should they decide to part with my collection after Iím dead and gone.

If we collectors donít actively seek new and younger collectors right now, this hobby will not have the staying power to sustain itself. As it stands right now, the only people who seemed to be attracted to our items seem to be our fellow collectors. Even if we did decide to sell, to whom would we sell this stuff? Each other? Thatís whatís been going on for the past few years. Many pieces just change hands within the group, because a significant number of new and younger collectors simply havenít been brought into the fold.

And I think we are the only folks who can do something about this, before enough time passes that our hard-fought and expensive purchases evaporate in value, simply due to the passing of time and loss in interest. Interest is decreasing, folks, and interest will continue to wane, rather than build. There is historical precedent: This has been evidenced in other areas of historical collecting and very well might happen in ours, should we stand by and do nothing to further the appeal of this hobby to younger generations.

A possible solution?

I propose that we form some sort of concerted effort to expose others - mainly younger people - to the hobby of collecting Mercury-Gemini-Apollo signed items. Then let's post our stories about recruiting these new collectors.

I pledge to find five young people within the next couple of months, explore their possible interest, share videos and stories, and personally give them signed items in an effort to help build this hobby. I realize this small act on my part wonít dramatically increase interest in the hobby overnight. But it might be a start...

Is there anyone out there who might like to join me in this pledge?

Sincerely,

Rob Sumowski
Macon, Georgia

CPIA
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posted 05-28-2003 11:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for CPIA   Click Here to Email CPIA     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rob, one man's vote can influence an election. Your work with young collectors will make a difference.

I give lectures to junior high school kids, if for nothing else then to deflect the myth that we did not go to the moon.

I also think that this hobby as with other hobbies will wax and wane with events and anniversaries. Anniversaries such as the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 1999 and the effect it had on the collecting community and prices paid at the Christie's auction. The same thing happened with Titanic memoribilia during the Titanic movie. The prices of artifacts flared and then quieted down. There will always be peaks and valley in space collecting.

I see at our local science museum the wonder children have at the various space artifacts that are on display. I also saw first hand the amount of people who go to the NASM day in and day out.

So I think space collecting will have it's cycles, but will continue to intrigue future generations. Especially if we head out into space toward new destinations.

Larry McGlynn

poolman18
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posted 05-29-2003 12:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for poolman18   Click Here to Email poolman18     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well said Rob. I will follow in your pledge and try my best to expose some younger people to this great hobby. I trust that I will have a harder time as stated in D.C than up in Canada, as if it isnít hockey it is a hard sell. Space related items just donít get the same respect.

Lets try our best.

David

BobbyA
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posted 05-29-2003 12:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BobbyA   Click Here to Email BobbyA     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First of all, I am a young collector. I was born 10 years (almost to the day) after Apollo 11 returned to the Earth. I can honestly say that I am the only person I know that collects books, photos, and signatures of former astronauts.

This fall I will begin student teaching at a local high school here in the Detroit suburbs. Some assume that I would teach science, but I am a historian. I admire the accomplishments of Mercury-Gemini-Apollo from a historical standpoint, not a scientific standpoint. I will with out a doubt cover the walls of my classroom with photos of the Mercury 7, Apollo astronauts on the moon, and Apollo-Soyuz. Weather my students like it or not they will be exposed to my interest, and some of my collection. Hopefully when they see how excited I am about the subject they will begin to have an increased interest as well.

Bob

Rizz
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posted 05-29-2003 01:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rizz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great post Rob. Thatís the spirit - keep it alive.

I've been sharing this hobby with the young ones for quite some time now, it's really quite rewarding. Models of the Apollo spacecraft fascinate them, and occasionally I loan some of my signed books to the young readers, who can make that special connection with the astronaut, to re-live the journeys.

They are aware enough to appreciate the accomplishments and significance of these events that took place years before they were born. They'll make some great bedtime stories decades from now.

A flown artifact that they can hold in their own hands is a special delight.

I was born in the year of Sputnik and I am fortunate to have had a family that was very interested in the space program, and even more blessed by the fact that my son is carrying on the tradition.

The Apollo books and flown artifacts in our collection, are made out to my son and signed by the men that made the journey. Some of his young friends are intrigued as well.

It just keeps moving on and on... Itís a great time to be living!

Rizz

lewarren
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posted 05-29-2003 03:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for lewarren   Click Here to Email lewarren     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is in the best interest of everyone who supports space exploration to share your enthousiasm with others.

Volunteer, educate, participate. You'll get more out of it than you know.

Liz

spaceuk
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posted 05-29-2003 10:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have always supported the exploration and utilisation of spaceflight for the benefit of humanity since age 10 years old back in 1957 when Sputnik-1 ignited my enthusiasm. (I was reading scifi in 1956.)

Just under ten years later I had the privilege to author many technical and some 'generalised' articles on spaceflight covering Apollo and Skylab missions, unmanned probes to the Moon, planets and comets, Russian missions and European flights. In a number of cases, these were real time reports and articles. I met and interviewed astronauts and cosmonauts, programme directors, politicians and, for me personally the ones I really liked talking to, the engineers and 'workers'. Over the ensuing years I continued to write more for the web now.

In 1965, certainly in UK, very few people realised that NASA was going to fly men to the Moon and return safely to earth. Yes, they read about astronauts and cosmonauts but few realised that there was a real programme underway and even fewer of those believed men would walk on the Moon. So, I started to do talks, lectures and even organised and kick started exhibitions to publicise spaceflight - especially Apollo. In the early days, people still guffawed at the idea but, as the flights became successes, the interest was sparked! I did talks not just in schools but in pubs, farmers unions, rotary functions, engineering societies, rugby clubs - you name a location, I've probably done a talk for them. I did top UK venues like London's Caxton Hall and University, Edinburgh's Royal Observatory, Jodrell Bank but also turned up to do small groups - including a small astronomical society whose observatory (a hut) was in the middle of a cabbage field.

During the research of material for articles, a number of aerospace 'units' (NASA, contractors, Novosti) started giving me items to use in my articles and talks. At the time, I thought 'nothing' of it and, after use, they went back into a draw. Then the internet arrived at my house (for me in the early days it was Compuserve) and I came across a guy on the Compuserve space group - Ricky Lanclos - who was offering some space flown item for sale. I bought it. We corresponded and I found out that there were a number of people - at time mainly in USA - collecting flown items. There were a number of space philatelists (worldwide) doing covers and had been doing for many decades. I had not known about these folk for many years! It was then that I suddenly realised that some stuff I had been given earlier in support of stories was worth saving for historical reasons. (I did own a piece on Skylab and was approached by NASA since they did not have their own illustration.) So, I started to look after things a bit better from that point on! But, for we collectors, we are not only collecting history but, for many of us I would suggest, it gives us armchair astronauts some tangible 'feel' of space.

Spaceflight is always going to be a long uphill struggle - both to be supported politically and at the day-to-day "Homer Simpson" human level, i.e. 'what's in it for me, where's my money going?' And, of course, a huge technical challenge. It will take centuries to 'mature' since the 'space environment' is so alien to our normal terrestrial environment. It's taken us something like 4 million years to get to this date, so a few centuries to 'conquer' space is really 'fast track'. We collectors are fortunate to be alive during the "seed planting" era.

Over the last four or five decades, I have seen the 'support and interest' in spaceflight wax and wane. There were down years after Sputnik-1 and Explorer before Gagarin's flight reignited general public interest. Then the down years between Gemini and Apollo flights before the true excitement of Apollo. Then the big downer between Skylab and the Shuttle. For a brief period, the early shuttle flights were exciting then the 'normality' of it all was no longer news or interesting. Ordinary people could not quite grasp what this 'latest' set of experiments was actually providing them. Unfortunately 'bad news' makes the headlines and Challenger did just that. But, interest in space was kinda reawakened until,again, the normality of repetitive shuttle flights lost the public interest. MIR had some high moments but, generally, never made the weekly or daily headlines. The girder construction of the ISS is not the 'wonderful' wheel shaped space station that the public "anticipated". The scientific and technical jargon that has been bantered around for the ISS basically 'turns-off' the vast majority of folk. (The last few weeks of Don Pettit onboard stay were producing some of the 'best' ISS promotional material for a while - the seeds growing, the water drops and the lunar eclipse).

When the shuttle flies again and if the unmanned landings on Mars are a success, general public interest in space will be reawakened for a while. But that interest has to be sustained. When you give a talk, it has to be interesting. For certain groups, you will have to lay bare your heart on the subject of space. Speak prosaically, add enthusiasm in to it, talk about colonising the Moon and Mars, setting up new 'world orders' new concepts, new way of living... They love it - believe it not! It's out of their daily grind. Yes, it seems silly but it works. And, yes, the exploration and utilisation may not go that "fanciful way" - it will more than likely go the 'human way' - one step forward, two back. But carry that dream and carry it loud and wide - people want to hear it!

sic itur ad astra!

Phill Parker
UK

Gilbert
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posted 05-29-2003 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Great post Rob. As the other passenger in your 13-hour marathon drive home from DC I share your concerns. I purchased two of Scott Carpenter's books and had him inscribe them to two guys. One is my 1-year old nephew and the other is the 7-year old son of a very good friend. 50 years from now they will be among very few people their age with a Mercury 7 astronaut autobiography inscribed to them personally. I have no idea if my nephew will grow to like or have an interest in space travel, but I plan to influence him as best I can. The 7-year old already has an interest and about a year ago I had him send John Glenn's book to Glenn for a personalization which he received and absolutely loves. I accompanied a friend with his 11-year old daughter to a Sally Ride signing last year in Atlanta. She had her picture taken with Sally and it's been on the wall in her bedroom ever since. She idolizes Sally Ride (not a bad choice). Anyway, I agree with you 100% and plan to continue and step up my efforts to get youngsters interested in the space program, past and future. Spread the word!

Gilbert Huey
Carrollton, Georgia

WAWalsh
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posted 05-29-2003 11:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Have to admit that I must plead guilty to constantly working on brainwashing my children on the issue. Starting with late night feedings when only months old, they have had various films on. Bedtime stories range from the Wright Brothers and Charles Lindbergh to John Glenn's fireflies, Apollo 8 and the various lunar missions. Since the age of four, my son has known that the commander of the mission is the astronaut with the red strip on his helmet during the final lunar missions. Two of my kids already have budding autograph collections.

Some bright news for Rob.

Courtesy of Robert's inquiry about six weeks ago, the October 2003 issue of Martha Stewart's Kids magazine will run an article on astronaut autograph collecting. If it goes as planned, the article should include photos of autographs to my daughter from John Glenn, Alan Bean, Richard Gordon, Anna Fisher, Piers Sellers and Sandra Magnus. Perhaps this will help to spark some interest in a new generation of space exploration enthusiasts who also collect autographs and other items to add on to their interest.

ejectr
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posted 05-29-2003 03:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"The Right stuff", Rob!

I was blown away when I went to visit the Liberty Bell 7 display at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA.

On the way to the display area,I spotted a full size mock up of the interior of the LEM and was drawn to it like a magnet. When I arrived, there stood a young boy of about 10-12 years of age standing in front of the instrument panel with a puzzled look on his face. He turns to me and said...

"What was this used for?"

FFrench
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posted 05-29-2003 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am by no means qualified to discuss the age, number nor decline of the number of collectors nor value of collection items.

But as the Education Programs Coordinator here at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, my everyday work does involve inspiring the next generation in their space flight interest - though our IMAX movies, planetarium shows, summer camps, our Challenger Center and through bringing in speakers such as Scott Carpenter, Tom Stafford, Bob Parker, Joe Allen and Jim Newman. The Challenger Centers, in particular, are designed to do nothing but inspire and motivate youth while educating them about space flight.

It is true that many kids don't know much about space history (in fact, I wrote a magazine article about that subject seven years ago - still on the web) but the enthusiasm is there. Often, it is a question of time, money and resources. That's why I'd urge all of you to get out there and VOLUNTEER. Offer to give a talk at your local school, including bringing in some of your collection. You'd be amazed how excited kids get when they see something that has flown in space. Volunteer at your local science center or museum - or at least become a member, to support their educational efforts. If you are a parent, try and organize a fundraiser to get your child's class to a Challenger Center mission. Or get your office staff to go on a teambuilding Challenger corporate mission. In short, in can only happen if you care and if you make it happen!

randy
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posted 05-29-2003 07:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for randy   Click Here to Email randy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I always try to encourage young collectors by giving them a piece of my collection, something I have more than one of. Also, when I talk to school classes, I give something to the students who help me, either with my presentation or setting it up. Also, as I have said before, my collection will be passed on to my kids, and hopefully to theirs, etc. I hope to continue on this way and preserve our hobby this way in my family.

Mike Dixon
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posted 05-30-2003 02:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Dixon   Click Here to Email Mike Dixon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To Rob and those who have responded with their thoughtful pieces... I applaud your contributions and your capacity to enunciate so well both your concerns and suggested remedies.

I can only echo the sentiments expressed as they strike an all too familiar chord with my experience who share similar passions for the program... we're seemingly all of similar ages.

Let's all hope we leave a living legacy that can be nurtured rather than be consigned to the compromised contributions of the history books.

J_Geenty
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posted 05-30-2003 07:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for J_Geenty   Click Here to Email J_Geenty     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Fascinating thread. I'd just like to say for the record that as a 21 year old, born after the first Shuttle flight, let alone the glory days of Apollo, I'll be staying with the hobby for my whole life. At the moment (as a rather poor student) some of the more expensive aspects of the hobby, like attending shows and buying autographs are out of my price reach. It might be the case that some of the younger collectors, especially those under 20, simply cannot afford to get to the big gatherings. Still, I think the goal of getting more of the new generation interested is an excellent one, certainly all of my friends have recieved lessons on space history at various times as has my family. Half the trick is getting people to listen, when they do, the accumplishments themselves hold peoples attention.

Philip
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posted 05-30-2003 01:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For as far as I have noticed in Belgium there are a lot of youngsters interested in both Astronomy and Spaceflight... but that doesn't mean these are all "collectors".

John K. Rochester
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posted 05-30-2003 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John K. Rochester   Click Here to Email John K. Rochester     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
When I give a presentation at a local school on manned spaceflight history, I always give out the name of an astronaut or two and the JSC address to have the kids write and ask any questions that I have not covered. Since Pam Melroy is from here, as well as Ed Lu, I often give their names to the kids and I have never known one of those children to go unanswered. Thanks to Pam and Edward for their heartfelt assistance and to "Keeping the Dream Alive" in our young children.

KenDavis
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posted 05-30-2003 02:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KenDavis   Click Here to Email KenDavis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have encouraged my 7-year old son to take an interest in spaceflight and in general I believe I have succeeded. I got Ed Gibson to sign a crew print for him which is now hanging on his wall - probably not the best way to preserve such a print but I hope this will encourage him to take a greater interest.

Hopefully in time, my collection (small as it is at the moment) will pass on to him.

My 3 year year old daughter is not ready to take an interest yet but maybe in a few years...

OPOS
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posted 05-30-2003 04:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OPOS   Click Here to Email OPOS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Excellent thoughts, Rob. I think that the sort of pledge you suggest is exactly the place to start. Many of us have children that are young and impressionable. I personally am a Cub Scout leader, and I find that an excellent forum for this sort of thing. The Scouts encourage collecting, and a knowledge of history. I use this as an "in" to show my collection and discuss space with them. I have already interested one youngster (aside from my son) in collecting space. The one thing that always seems to get them is when I tell them that only 12 men have walked on the moon and that of them, only 9 survive. They are also amazed that most of these astronauts are older than their grandparents (remember they are only 9 or 10)! Often I will use the example of the importance of remembering things that occur during their lifetimes. Some of you always remember where you were when JFK was shot (Not me! Still had 9 months to go!). Some it was John Lennon (me). Most of us it would be Challenger. These youngsters will remember Columbia.

I think Rob that you have hit on an important tool to use in that there are so few who actively collect space. Perhaps what we have now will someday be amongst the worlds most valuable items. Financially, maybe, but from a historical standpoint, definitely. Remember, regardless of what humans do in space from now on, this era will always be the first.

I know I am preaching to the choir, but I think that the wonder of it all is the most important thing. I still get goosebumps when I look at pictures of men on the moon. On one occasion, some of us were talking to Charlie Duke, and he described the lunar landscape in relation to his pre-trip dream. I was just thinking, this is the real thing from the horses mouth, not a written account, not an interview, or a film. This was a real one on one description by a man who had been there. That is the true wonder.

Tom Edmonds

rjurek349
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posted 05-30-2003 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Rob, great post. Always good to think about these things. The comments and discussion here have been great. I do not think that the hobby of collecting space related items will ever die. Nor will the interest. It, like it has mentioned before, will ebb and flow with the times. Clearly, we are not in the golden age of the 60s/70s when people were mesmerized by it -- but even then, as we saw with Apollo 13, interest came and went depending on the "event." And future events will continue to generate interest amongst newer generations. I think as China enters the race for the moon (indeed, just for orbit), and India and Japan continue their work, and the US and Russia continue their work, the interest will always be there.

I was at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry recently -- they have the Apollo 8 capsule, flown items from Lovell's private collection, from Borman's, they have a Mercury capsule, a training LEM, and a moon rock on display from Apollo 17, among other items. I took the kids (7 and 4) and we had a lot of fun, and then we went home and looked at the books, photos, flown items, etc., in my collection. Amazing to experience with them -- but the wonder in their eyes and the pure sense of excitement was amazing.

But what gives me the greatest encouragement are teachers like Mrs. Cheryl Pergher at Kolling Elementary School in our district here in St. John, Indiana. After reading Rob's post, I started checking some of our local school websites and noticed this page that recapped the student's week.

Since it will probably change next week, I will summarize: this first grade class spent the week studying the planets, visited the Challenger Center in Hammond, created and LAUNCHED!!! their own model space shuttles, and in the end they spent time imagining they could travel to the plants and the students wrote stories (mixing fact and fiction) about their travels. And this is first grade!!! Wonderful. A big bravo and kudos to Mrs. Pergher and ones like her.

You know that kind of teaching spirit for/from the hobby should be rewarded. The next major space gathering should hold a charity auction to raise funds to set up a small foundation that will give an annual cash award (say $1,000 or $2,000) a year to the teacher or teachers that do the best job promoting space literacy (both historic and current) in the classroom. Awards could be given annually. Plaques. Dinners. Astronaut speaches. THIS would ensure continued motivation in the classroom. Most of the teachers I know are starved for resources to make the classroom interesting -- what better than space, and what better than an annual award/stipend to purchase classroom materials?

Rich

Bob M
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posted 05-30-2003 05:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The "old-timers" in the hobby remember well the fun and excitment of obtaining autographs of so many of the pioneer astronauts for little more than the price of a stamp. Yes, it wasn't too long ago that Lovell, Borman, Armstrong, Aldrin, Shepard, Stafford, Scott, Cernan, Irwin, etc., at various times, would kindly respond for free with their autographs through the mail.

That wonderful era is all but gone and now it certainly takes a lot more than a stamp and a polite letter to obtain astronaut autographs. How can a young person with limited funds be expected to pay, for example, $165 for one Dave Scott signature? How many astronaut autographs can a young person get for free? Not many. Of course, several pioneer astronauts' signing fees are quite reasonable, but after spending several hundred dollars on just a handful of astronaut autographs, the young collector must become frustrated & discouraged.

Like it or not, the space hobby has become a "money hobby" and those without much money, which includes most young enthusiasts, are quickly discouraged. They may continue to be interested in space, but cannot continue collecting astronaut autographs.

Bob McLeod

colonelgumby
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posted 05-30-2003 05:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for colonelgumby   Click Here to Email colonelgumby     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boy, reading this could not have come at a better time. I have just become Manager of the Highland Road Observatory in Baton Rouge. Among my many new tasks here are to help create summer camps for children age 5 to 12 which start on Monday. These camps will explore astronomy, rocket science and space travel. I have to tell you, these camps were the first in the entire city to fill up which sends a hopeful signal that perhaps there still is an interest among the younger set (or at least their parents are trying to instill that 'wonder' that they perhaps had back in the Apollo days.)

The main reason I took the job, (it sure wasn't money) was to share my excitement about space travel and astronomy with the children. After reading this thread, I certainly have hope that there is a future for our hobby. I know I feel it every time a kid steps up to the telescope, looks at Saturn and goes 'Wow'. And believe me, they do.

I pledge to do everything I can to keep that excitement alive but not just for the hobby. I want those kids to have that excitement again. To feel success, failure and success again and again until a goal is reached. To hope and dream again.

I think we will be ok. I really do.

Trey

collshubby
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posted 05-30-2003 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for collshubby   Click Here to Email collshubby     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by colonelgumby:
I have just become Manager of the Highland Road Observatory in Baton Rouge.
It is good to know that you are now the manager at the observatory in Baton Rouge. I used to be a member of the astronomy club there and went often on the Friday night public showings. It is a great observatory with a dedicated bunch of people. I know that you will enjoy it there.

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posted 05-30-2003 11:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cklofas   Click Here to Email cklofas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I feel that Rob's concerns are valid, I also believe that many other members have already reached the same conclusion I have - it is up to us to reach out and pass on our wonder and fascination to others. How many of us were woken up by parents to see some of these events unfold ? That sparked the interest that we carry to this day. We must find a way to reach others the same way. Use our knowledge and passion to spark someone's interest, encourage them to do the same particularly younger people whose have no memory and unfortunately, sometimes, no knowledge of these great events and people. I don't collect for the monetary value, I collect because these people INSPIRE me. THIS is what we must pass on.

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posted 05-31-2003 07:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for inghamb   Click Here to Email inghamb     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I use the "stealth" technique to pass on this history. I happen to have my collection displayed exclusively in my "space office". I leave no opportunity to linger too long when one of my 14 year old son's friends are over to give him/her a wall to wall, memento by memento tour and historical overview from Mercury through Apollo. I also use this same technique to spike the interest of my co-workers. I must say that more often than not, the GEE WIZ factor is lost on the younger generation, but I'm working on my "hook" technique. I've begun tying in "The Right Stuff", a movie with which most youth are familiar... and I begin by showing them my Chuck Yeager picture. This at least gets them to the point of saying... "I know him!" Yes, capture the minds, one day at a time.

Kirsten
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posted 05-31-2003 02:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kirsten   Click Here to Email Kirsten     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here in Europe, one of the grand masters in promoting our hobby, or space enthusiasm in general, to the youth is no one else than Dutch former astronaut Prof. Dr. Wubbo Ockels! He works at ESTEC in Noordwijk right now, as Head of Educational Outreach, and is a part time professor at Delft University of Technology.

Guess I should try to get him to get a cS member, as grand master Sy Liebergot already joined here...

All the best, Kirsten

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posted 05-31-2003 04:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for RMH   Click Here to Email RMH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I, like the rest of you, enjoy sharing my enthusiasm with those whom I can share it with. I think the enthusiasm is out there and the potential to reach more people and fascinate them with the space program is abundant. However, I am not so sure that enthusiasm for the space program equates to more collectors. The original post was out of concern for the space collections that we have will become worthless (both monetarily and historically.) As we continue to advance in the space age more and more people will be flying and before to long tourism will be the rage. As we continue I am afraid that we may loose the luster of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.

I am mostly a shuttle collector because that is what I was raised during. The collecting of space was inflicted on me by my mother. Starting a collection of space memorabilia today would be very difficult I would think. So how do we connect enthusiasm with collecting?

bruce
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posted 05-31-2003 09:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bruce   Click Here to Email bruce     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is a great topic! I want to share my recent experience(s) with you. A few months ago, a teacher in Toronto posted a request here on collectSPACE for someone to help him arrange to have "his kids" interview an astronaut or two.

I sent out a few emails and within a week I had arranged phone interviews with Ed Mitchell, Dan Brandenstein, Dale Gardner and Kathy Thornton!

I didn't know it at the time, but this particular school focuses on underprivileged kids and those with special needs (autism, teen moms, learning differences, etc). The teacher was SO grateful. He shared with me the "looks on the faces" of his kids while they were interviewing people like moonwalker Ed Mitchell! I emailed each astronaut's NASA biography ahead of time so that the students could get their game plan together and prepare some good questions. Apparently, they did!

The teacher said it was a rare moment that leveled the playing field of life experience possibilities for these kids. For those few precious moments, the dreamers were connected with the do-ers! Some of the kids even called to thank me and it really moved me listening to the excitement in their voices.

All I did was send out a few courteous emails asking a few astronauts for 15 generous minutes of their time for a phone interview with some school kids. Was it worth my time? Absolutely. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I'm going to recommend this very approach to my daughter's middle school science teacher.

This is just one way some of us can help get more young people involved with space.

Best,
Bruce

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posted 05-31-2003 10:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter Fadis   Click Here to Email Peter Fadis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having been a member of the collectSPACE for some time now, I make it a point to log on to this site at least weekly, to try and read as many of the interesting threads as time permits.

I have to say, that this thread is most interesting in that it reflects a concern that I share deeply, with fellow collectors and is the first such thread that I have posted a reply to.

As the Aerospace Education Officer of a local Civil Air Patrol Unit (Auxiliary of the United States Air Force), I teach aerospace education to 35 cadets ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old (two are children of mine). We participate in various aerospace activities,visit air and space museums and have received excellence awards.

Sometimes, I think I bore the cadets with stories of my childhood experiences growing up with the space program, watching and studying all of the early flights with space pioneers making history. Stories of how I wanted to become an astronaut and how I began collecting space memorabilia at the age of 9 (1964).

So on occasion, I bring in an item from my collection. During one recent unit meeting, I passed around a flown water syringe casing from the Apollo 8 command module together with a photo of Jim Lovell and the casing during the mission. The cadets were fascinated and when I pass around autographed astronaut photos and books they are just as fascinated and ask for more. They even ask how to obtain such prized possessions.

Some of these cadets have dreams of their own, of applying to one of the military academies, receiving flight training and perhaps becoming astronauts. My son has such dreams and has become an avid space memorabilia collector. I take my kids to auctions and book signings. They have personally met many of our space pioneers and walked the grounds of Cape Canaveral more than once. It has become a family affair, a conversation at the dinner table.

It is a wonderful feeling to see the shared enthusiasm. There is a connection and an energy here. The same energy that I recognized when I first met collectors Robert Pearlman and Francois Guay at Christie's East two years ago. The same energy that brings us to this site and inspires future collectors.

Rob Sumowski
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posted 05-31-2003 10:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Sumowski   Click Here to Email Rob Sumowski     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the fantastic replies detailing ways to share space with younger kids...what a great thing to hear!

Still, how can we help them to become collectors?

quote:
Originally posted by RMH:
I am not so sure that enthusiasm for the space program equates to more collectors.
You're right, enthusiasts don't necessarily equate with collectors. (Of course, without enthusiasm, no one would collect anyway, so it's definitely vital.) His is a very important point.
quote:
Originally posted by Bob M:
Like it or not, the space hobby has become a "money hobby" and those without much money, which includes most young enthusiasts, are quickly discouraged.
Bob McLeod brought up another important point... signatures from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo astronauts are pretty darned pricey for most kids.

My logic:

I figured if we could individually help some young people with a head start toward collecting (i.e., duplicates as gifts), they might then save up for their next astronaut, and the next, etc. Does this make sense?

I'm trying to find a way to build the body of younger collectors. It's good for all of us.

Remember the feeling of holding your first signature - a slice of history - in your hands? A few freebies from us to kids may just motivate them to join the fold and seek to build their own collections.

I guess the crux of the original question remains, "What can you and I do to pass on the actual hobby?"

Food for thought...

Rob

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posted 05-31-2003 11:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Doing this just to preserve the economic value of any question (e.g., pushing autographs as a particular means of collecting) is not only unnecessary, I think it's counterproductive. If there's a kid who might want some autographs -- great -- pass along your extras (or even your singles if you think you can get a new one down the road). But it takes more than that if you want it to stick.

A baseball analogy, if you will permit me. One of the reasons I don't collect baseball cards (much as I love baseball) is my brothers and uncles kept telling me that I shouldn't bother to collect my favorite guys and I really should be interested in should care about Mickey Mantle or some of those guys from the sixties. I never care about Mickey Mantle -- and I still don't. I was far more interested in Nolan Ryan or Vida Blue or Jack Clark or Goose Gossage. My nephew couldn't give a rip about Candy Maldanado or Atlee Hammaker, but boy does he love Rich Aurilla -- and I don't try to tell him differently.

Should you get a Scott Carpenter book autographed to your favorite kid? Absolutely, but don't expect them to care for years down the road.

It's about creating enthusiasm for space, in itself, like creating enthusiasm in baseball -- for itself -- not baseball (or space) of your own view of the Golden Age.

Seems to me the place that's going to be exciting in the next few years isn't NASA, but the guys involved in the X Prize. Maybe it's unjust, but Burt Rutan is going to be the new, exciting, public face of space (side burns and all) not the Astronaut Class of 1998. My guess is that, given the likelihood of a success on the X-Prize, the pilots of those things -- as those astronauts make the circuit on Jay Leno and Scholastic Reader Weekly -- those guys are going to have some star power. Not on the order of John Glenn, back in his day, but certainly famous. Encourage the young people in your life to pursue their own, new heroes that arise naturally in their own lives -- and if your kids are excited by that, tell them to write those guys that interest them for an autograph.

It's then when they've got their own collection of their own people of their own time, that you should share your own memories of the space program. And that's the best kind of bond.

My grandfather remembered the double play combination of Tinkers to Evers to Chance -- when they played -- and the thing, now, is I still don't really care about those guys, but I sure treasure the time I spent talking to my grandfather about them -- and if I were to find a Tinker autograph today, I'd buy it. Not for myself, but to remember my connection to my grandfather.

I guess all I'm saying, in a roundabout way, is that if you want the enthusiasm to stick, they need to follow their own heroes. Don't expect them to admire ours.

Rob Sumowski
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posted 06-01-2003 12:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Sumowski   Click Here to Email Rob Sumowski     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very intriguing. Could it be that the possible eventual decline in interest for the older astronauts is simply an inevitable eventuality?

Going with your baseball analogy, could it be that perhaps we are collecting the Babe Ruths and Mickey Mantles of space travel?

Personally, when I see these cards of these and other baseball greats in a case in a hobby store, I do look on with wonder, but won't part with the money required to actually purchase one. Sure they are extremely valuable dollar-wise, but there has become such a small market of people who are willing to buy them.

If this is the case with our space pioneers, it may be not-so-good news for the hoarders. In D.C., Gilbert and I saw a fellow in the Charlie Duke line who was getting dozens of moon globes signed by any and everybody. When Gilbert asked him if he was a dealer, he said, quite honestly, "No, I'm just hoarding."

Is a decline in interest for Mercury, Gemini, Apollo guys simply inevitable? Any thoughts on this?

Really interesting food for thought. Trying to provoke a meaningful discussion about the possibility of building interest in collecting the early astronauts was the reason for my original post.

Rob

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posted 06-01-2003 01:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I do not mean to suggest that folks shouldn't collect the older stuff -- I'm just saying that kids find their own interest and should, for instance, the X Prize stuff help spawn a new interest in the space program, I hope folks who care about the hobby will guide kids to pursue that stuff, instead of suggesting that the kids "ought" to want an Gemini 6 insurance cover -- two old farts who don't mean anything to them -- instead of wanting a signature (or whatever else sparks their interest) from a Dick Rutan SpaceshipOne flight.

KenDavis
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posted 06-01-2003 03:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KenDavis   Click Here to Email KenDavis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Got to say I agree with the last two posts, kids will make their own heroes. Over here in the UK there is a lot of interest in ESA's Mars Express mission because the Beagle lander was built in the UK. OK, so there are no astronauts on their way to Mars yet, but this is the stuff the schools are going to be looking at over here.

Picking up from that is a route into other areas of the hobby including manned spaceflight.

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posted 06-01-2003 09:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OPOS   Click Here to Email OPOS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A new idea has crossed my mind in connection with providing part of our era (M-G-A) to new persons. I was talking to my son's coach about the autograph show in DC. He was very interested. Turns out he scans his dish for any show on space history. He said he had never considered collecting items, so I told him about my pieces. So, what do I do to interest him? Obviously, not many want to start giving away their Armstrongs, but what can we give to increase interest?. I saw that the new Bill Pogue book is called Space Trivia. Sounds like a nice, general read for the public. Now I see that it will be signed by a flown pen. I will purchase this book and give it to him. He gets a space book, signed, with a little bit of something flown. Perhaps that is the little nudge he will need to go farther. All it took for me was a personalized Gene Cernan book, and I was hooked. Just an idea, but maybe it is a start.

Tom Edmonds

WAWalsh
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posted 06-02-2003 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for WAWalsh   Click Here to Email WAWalsh     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Kids should be allowed to pursue their own heroes, but not without direction. Parents provide the first line of defining the appropriate role models and heroes and should continually work towards ensuring their children are following the appropriate path. The fact that there are EVA and shuttle launch photos on my daughter's bedroom wall, rather than a Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys posters reflects the impact of direction. Within the context of space exploration, she is given full freedom and decidedly spends more time reading about the upcoming missions to Mars or events on the ISS rather than dusting off my books or reading transmission transcripts.

Further, I view a knowledge of the history of the program as important. If nothing else, the pioneers provide the context for judging those now at the forefront in any profession. Tinkers-Evers-Chance or Mantle or Ruth are important because they provide the yardstick for measurement of current accomplishments (how can one discuss Torii Hunter and Griffey, Jr.'s play in center field without discussing DiMaggio or Mays; Aurillo may be a nephew's favorite player, but the discussion begins when you compare him against Ozzie Smith or PeeWee Reese). I do not believe the point of the original post was encouragement to find someone to purchase the Gemini 6 insurance cover in 25 years from an estate sale, but rather to use the item to explain who the two astronauts in the spacecraft were, the hair-raising aspects of the two cancelled launches and the significance of the mission in developing the ability to rendezvous in space. To limit knowledge solely to some current hero eliminates an enthralling history that helps to detail how we have gone in 100 years from to the first airplane traveling a distance most of us can beat with a 6 iron to landing on the Moon and exploring the solar system with satellites.

Frederic Janik
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posted 06-02-2003 10:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Frederic Janik   Click Here to Email Frederic Janik     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting subject. While I was born after the last of the moon landings, I'm not a kid anymore.

I think one great way to get kids interested in the subject is to show them "From The Earth To The Moon". The miniseries was both historically very authentic and had amazing modern special effects.

It seems to me like a great tool to get them to relate with the space program.

Frederic Janik

PS: Rob, nice post.

Matt T
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posted 06-02-2003 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was also discussing this recently with a fellow collector, as we drove home from Autographica (curious coincidence).

My opinion is that the value of our collections will inevitably shrink in time, both downwards and inwards. By inwards I mean the value of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo era items will be focused increasingly (almost exclusively) on the big firsts - Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Apollo 11 - and then in a league of his own value wise - Neil Armstrong.

I didn't believe this myself originally until a similar discussion previously on this same board drew forth an interesting parallel from Doc Hanson.

In the 20s and 30s collectors of early aviation memorabilia focussed on items relating to all the early fliers and early milestones. In an era when we all fly routinely we have lost this wonder; while we can appreciate it as an incredible moment in history it's not the same feeling as it must have been for people who had lived before flight and then saw it in their own lifetimes.

Hence as the years rolled by the number of people still impressed/interested by the first fliers dwindled. The relevance of each early milestone diminished until ultimately you are left with only one event that can still excite the population at large - the Wright Brothers' first flight.

Who other than a very small core of collectors would spend money now to own a piece of their second plane? Or their fifth?

Apollo 16 may seem big news to us, but one day it'll be the fifth trip to the moon, fifth of fifty (or fifty thousand). John Young and Charlie Duke are names that loom large to us - but what was the name of the guy who flew that fifth plane I mentioned earlier? I don't know and I don't think it wrong that I shouldn't.

So that's the value history will place on our collections. Couple to this the fact that the people most likely to collect the Mercury - Apollo era (people who were born pre-moon landings but young enough to be awed by it) are now at their optimum spending age - 40 to 50 year old males at their earning peak. As the size of this group diminishes where can prices go but down?

It's worth confronting these facts honestly before spending large sums of money on a hobby. If you're still willing to spend your hard-earned money - excellent! You're in love like the rest of us

So to address Rob's question - I don't think there is a realistic way of making the value of our hobby endure much past it's natural lifespan (80 years?) or to retain public interest in events peripheral to the ones that shook the world.

If value is important we can collect cleverly. Buy Armstrong low, wait for anniversaries of 1969, then sell high!

Cheers,
Matt

Rodina
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posted 06-02-2003 02:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by WAWalsh:
Kids should be allowed to pursue their own heroes, but not without direction.
I should have been more precise -- you are quite correct that parents need to guide their kids on this stuff -- but within useful guidelines, let 'em run.
quote:
To limit knowledge solely to some current hero eliminates an enthralling history that helps...
You can start a fire with a spark, but you've got to blow on it slowly. Blow too hard and you might as well soak it in water. That's all I'm saying.

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posted 06-03-2003 09:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for OPOS   Click Here to Email OPOS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Matt T:
My opinion is that the value of our collections will inevitably shrink in time, both downwards and inwards.
While I agree in principal to what you said, there may be some major differences. Aviation, once started, took off (literally!) and never looked back. Someone has been flying consistently since that first day. Space flight - and particularly trips to the moon - are larger, more expensive ventures that require government backing, and the backing of a very fickle public. As optimistic as I try to remain, we (the US) may not return there in our lifetimes. Probably in our children's, but when you start adding the years up, it is pretty scary. Hell, we don't even have a way to orbit right now (hopefully very temporary). I believe that phase one of our space exploration (M-G-A) will always be unique because it all happened with a 10 year era, and possibly people in the future may wonder WHY there was 30 to 100 years between visits to the moon. Suppose it is a 50 year lull between Cernan and the next landing... how old will you be? I will be 60 and I am just a "pup". So I agree that as time passes, more emphasis will be put on "firsts", but I also think that there will be enough uniqueness in the venture that John Young will never be an "also-ran". There was a time when Shepard was outshone by Glenn (most thought Glenn the "first American in space") I think though that even with Glenn's continued fame (first on the moon, someone told me!) time (and a trip to the moon) has allowed Shepard to regain the stature of the pioneering first American in space.

Tom Edmonds

Matt T
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posted 06-03-2003 11:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good point Tom, the differences in subsequent events are a factor. If NASA's original vision for manned spaceflight had been followed then I guess we would all be far less focussed on the vigour and achievements of those early years, as it would have led on to greater and greater things.

The aviation parallel is only that - a parallel. I could (and hope to be) proved wrong about it, otherwise it's going to be slim pickings in the retirement home.

Cheers,
Matt


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