Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Colorado Chronicles : USAFA Astronauts

Today marks the 41st anniversary of "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" as it was broadcast to The Big Blue Marble from the surface of the Moon. So, I thought today would be a good time to recognize each of our Three States and their connections to NASA and/or the space program. So, what do Colorado and NASA have in common? Simply the most important single component (other than perhaps the spacecraft) to the entire space program, namely astronauts. How are astronauts and Colorado connected? Five letters - USAFA. The United States Air Force Academy . Over fifty astronauts have attended the Academy. Some of the names you'll easily recognize, like Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Or Wally Schirra - the only man to fly in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Most are not household names and, to me, there's a good reason for that. Since the inception of the manned flight space program, traveling to the Moon or watching the Space Shuttle repair a wayward satellite has become almost "routine" despite the complexity and enormity of each mission. In 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the "Eagle" (Lunar Excursion Module) onto the surface of Earth's nearest space neighbor, space flight was still thought of as new, exciting and dangerous. Not so much today, even though the missions are just as new, exciting and dangerous, if not more so, as they were 41 years ago - just more "routine". :)

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