posted 11-10-2013 10:00 PM
I got home early this evening after taking a flight out of Melbourne via Atlanta to Toronto.
I had a chance to reflect on the show.
Astronaut attendance was down this year as everyone knows. There were last minute cancellations by Ed Gibson, Bruce McCandless and Buzz Aldrin.
Attendance was way down compared to previous years I have attended reflective of the lack of astronaut participation I suppose.
While the attendance may have been disappointing most of those that were there did not allow that to ruin their weekend. I can tell you that overall I had a very good time.
I met up with Mel and the gang who usually attend these shows. Guys, I cannot thank you enough for including me in your group. I had a great time as always and even though I have not been there in a couple of years I appreciate that you made me feel welcome.
Mel, I am really appreciate of you giving me a ride to the space center and allowing me to tag along. I had a great time. Sorry I did not get a chance to see you guys before I left this morning. I hope to see all of you in the near future. You guys made the weekend for me.
The people we meet at the shows is what makes it work. If it were just about the astronaut autographs I would just go get the signatures. It's about rekindling friendships and starting new ones. Uniting with a group of people with the same interests in spaceflight that I have. So on that level the show was great success for me.
The Thursday night Jeopardy was fun. A group of us had an excellent conversation with Charlie Duke later about a great many things, not just spaceflight.
I had a platinum ticket and was not attending the Atlantis tour with Tom Jones. However I came to see Atlantis in the next group and the tour was still going on. No one seemed to mind that I listened in. Tom Jones is polished and a very interesting guide and speaker. We attended his lecture on Saturday, which was excellent, as was Fred Haise and Mary Cleve. We also stopped by the see John Blaha at the Astronaut Encounter on Friday, which was also excellent.
Anyone who has not seen Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is really missing something. They have done an outstanding job with the display. I saw Discovery last year and it was good. But the Atlantis display is outstanding in every way. It really shows the how spectacular the spacecraft is.
The cocktail party is always my favorite part of the weekend. I had great conversations with Fred Haise about fishing and some of his flying experiences.
Jack Lousma was his normal friendly self. We talked about all sorts of things, including his relationship with George Abby, and his run for Senate in Michigan against Carl Levin.
Every time I do one of these shows there is always a particular astronaut who stands out in my mind. One year it was Charlie Bolden, another Dave Scott, etc.
This year it was Greg H "Box" Johnson. He was the life of the party. A few of us had met him at the bar earlier in the evening and he confided he was an autograph show "virgin" and really did not know what to do.
Box Johnson is a really fun guy once he gets going. The highlight of the weekend for me was when were talking in the bar after the cocktail party and we joined a group sitting with Gene Cernen.
The two exchanged barbs, taking the Navy/Air Force and Apollo/Shuttle rivalry to new heights. All with humor of course. The conversation and their exchange of experiences was not the stuff you will read in biographies but it was very real and often funny.
From Greg's experience flying F-15E Strikes Eagles, during the Gulf War to both their experiences with Chuck Yeager to exchanging barbs in the Navy/Air Force fashion, it was just one of those fun spontaneous exchanges that happens at these events and I will never forget it. There was no doubt, all the joking and barbs aside, the two greatly respect each other.
If anyone missed meeting Box Johnson at the show you missed a great guest. He is down to earth and was really in awe of the Apollo guys, yet reluctant to accept just how outstanding his own achievements are. He interacted with guests And really was the life of the party.
Greg retired from NASA after STS-134 and is now director of CASIS. But I suspect his greatest feat is having the distinction as the only person I have ever seen leave Gene Cernan speechless after one of his many humorous comments.
I hope we see him at future shows. Great guy.
I had never met Eileen Collins before. She is class act. She is very engaging and also modest of her own achievements. She really takes the time to talk to each person she meets and she is interested, engaging in conversation, not just about her but she seems genuinely interested in finding out about the people she meets.
I am curious to know when Tom Stafford arrived. The reason I ask is because I ran into him at the Melbourne airport this morning. He was getting off the airplane I was getting on. I had a chance to say hello That was at 11 a.m. (no I did not ask him to sign anything ).
As I said the guests attending these shows is what makes them work. There is no doubt they are going to have to make some changes if the show is to continue and grow. I would have liked to see more shuttle astronauts.
With Atlantis so well displayed it seems ideal location to include more shuttle and ISS astronauts. Their stories deserve to be told and the best way of doing that it to meet them in person. Just an opinion.
While attendance was way down over other years I went, I still had a great time and had a chance to meet several astronauts: Mary Cleve, Eileen Collins, Dan Brandenstein Tom Jones and Greg H. Johnson, whom I have never met before.
It will be interesting to see how the ASF moves forward with this event in the future but if the setting was right I would consider going again.