Published in Senior Scene Magazine, June 2016, Page 22
U.S. Space Walk of Fame
GPS: 28.613792o, -80.804177o
Having spent a good bit of time in the Mercury section, we needed to move on to see the whole park before dark. A small lagoon separates Mercury and Gemini. Andrew and I walked the short distance around the lagoon to the Gemini Walk of Fame. Artistically, I like Gemini best. The only approach looks squarely up the walk with the Gemini Monument standing tall at the end against an unobstructed sky. The afternoon sun let the small markers cast shadows that made the walk seem even longer. The mission insignia atop the monument reflected the sunlight like a flashbulb.
Project Gemini, named for the twins in the constellation Gemini (Castor and Pollux), carried a crew of two and had several goals: Long-duration (14 days) spaceflight; space rendezvous and docking; extra-vehicular activity; targeted re-entry and landing. Over the life of the project (1961 – 1966), they flew two unmanned, and ten two-man missions, flown by sixteen astronauts – some from Mercury and others who would become famous in the Apollo program. Gemini was a busy project. While Mercury gets much of the glamor, Gemini did most of the work of teaching us how to work in space.
Simply cross Indian River Road to move from Gemini to Apollo. The Apollo Walk itself is comparatively short, with the monuments being four sided etched marble with some pretty detailed narrative on each face. The main monument sits at the center of the walk.
Project Apollo was the US program to land a man on the moon and return him safely. During the project (1961 – 1972), there were three unmanned, one tragedy (Apollo 1), and fourteen manned missions – including one near tragedy (Apollo 13). Nine missions traveled to the moon. Three astronauts crewed each. Thirty-two astronauts made up the pool assigned to the program.
We cannot capture the story of Project Apollo in a paragraph or two. “Land a man on the moon and return him safely.” Say that very slowly and try to grasp the magnitude of that simple sentence.
At 4:18 p.m. on July 20, 1969, I stood in front of my television and cried like a baby when I heard Neil Armstrong's voice say simply, "the Eagle has landed." With those words, Apollo 11 achieved the dream of our nation – expressed by President Kennedy in 1961 – to put humans on the Moon by the end of the decade. Some events are just so big; you can’t wrap words around them.
While Apollo 11 qualifies as a great event, Apollo 13 proved to be NASA’s finest hour. Riding on a wave of success, NASA suddenly faced a mission gone terribly wrong. Bringing Lovell, Swigert, and Haise back alive makes a story of heroism worth telling to every young person for many years to come.
at precisely 9:32 a.m. ET, exactly 30 years after the lift-off of Apollo 11
I choked up recounting the Apollo stories to Andrew. I’m sure he didn’t understand, and we had the Shuttle section and the Museum yet to go.
Click here to see part 1
Click here to see part 3
Learn more at US Space Walk of Fame