Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Titusville Treasure – Part 1

Published in Senior Scene Magazine, May 2016, Page 22

U.S. Space Walk of Fame
Titusville, FL
GPS: 28.613792o, -80.804177o

"Who is John Glenn?” Andrew asked.

Sitting on a park bench looking out over the Indian River, the warm breeze brought us the smell of the brackish river water. Boat traffic plied the river and the Vehicle Assembly Building at Launch Complex 39 dominated the horizon on the far side. Even at nine and a half miles away, it is impressive.

"John Glenn was one of the first seven American astronauts. He was the first one to orbit the earth", I replied. NO! That's not enough – not nearly enough.

"Andrew, I am still alive!" I realized this great adventure is slipping into the history books. The space program was the most significant exploration since Lewis & Clark, and it happened in my lifetime, in my country. Those early days, beginning with Project Mercury were very real to me. A lot of bad stuff was going on in the US in the sixties, but the space program united us, and I was so proud to be an American.

Andrew, my ten-year-old grandson lives in Denver, CO, and was spending his spring break with us. On this day, we visited the US Space Walk of Fame in Titusville, FL.

The US Space Walk of Fame is an outdoor plaza in Titusville, FL honoring the astronauts and the NASA and contractor personnel who made American manned space exploration possible. It is the first and only Walk in the nation to pay tribute to the men and women behind the scenes as well as the astronauts.

No rockets or space capsules here. This understated park remembers the people. There are monuments and plaques; bronze handprints and marble pavement inserts. Well-placed benches invite visitors to pause, to rest, and to reflect on what is recorded here.

The park exists in five sections; Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Shuttle, Museum. Andrew and I started our exploration where it all began – Project Mercury

Project Mercury Walk of Fame

We strolled along the walk, pausing at each of the marble pavers to recount the excitement the nation felt as we watched the missions unfold. Friendship 7 was special. Does anyone old enough not remember that day?

Marble Pavement Marker commemorating the first American orbital flight

I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye when astronaut Scott Carpenter gave Friendship 7 the sendoff "Godspeed, John Glenn" on Feb 20, 1962. Every engineer and technician across the nation prayed their part would perform flawlessly. It was as if we could wish John Glenn into orbit.

John Glenn Handprints

The Mercury Monument and mission plaques, with cast bronze hand prints
of six of the original seven astronauts, were dedicated on May 12, 1995.
The Mercury mission insignia was unveiled on May 23, 1997

As we left the Mercury section of the park, I asked “Andrew, do you now know who John Glenn is?” He smiled and nodded. “Let’s see what we can learn about the Gemini Project?”

Click here to see part 2

Click here to see part 3

Learn more at US Space Walk of Fame

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