50 years ago today… where were you?

Fifty years ago today, a guy crawled up on top of an 70+ foot high Roman candle knowing that someone would light the fuse and blow him into space riding something called “Freedom 7”.

In April 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion had failed and the old Senators played their first game as the new Minnesota Twins.  The December 1960 release of Exodus was still on many silver screens. You could smoke, and there were powder rooms.

In my hometown of Minneapolis the top ten on the chart of radio station KDWB 63 included Roy Oribson’s “Running Scared” and “Runaway” by Del Shannon, “Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson, and Eddy Arnold’s “Just Call Me Lonesome”.  JFK was President and in February a new pop combo called The Beatles performed for the first time at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.  Princess Diana would not be born until July.  The movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s wouldn’t be on the screen until November!   Later also were West Side Story, The Misfits, The Parent Trap.

In the US another ride of Freedom began.  The “Freedom Riders” started a bus trip to test the limits on segregation on interstate bus rides set by the Supreme Court’s integration ruling in Boynton v. Virginia.  On 14 May a bus would be fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama and civil rights protesters beaten by a mob.

On TV this week you could watch Sea Hunt, Mavrick, Wagon Train, The Rifleman, Have Gun Will Travel – I’m sensing a theme… Hazel, Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke. I am told I used to stand in front of a tiny screen with my hand on my cheek just like Jack Benny.

We had a pink and purple DeSoto.  Not kidding.

And who can forget the Flintstone’s Winston cigarette commercial?  Banned, actually.


Is this where I got the idea to integrate Mystic Monk commercials into my posts?  Buy some now, by the way.

Ronald Regan spoke out against socialized medicine in 1961.  Listen.  It’s eerie.

Many of the things on the shelves at the grocer look familiar 50 years later.  Also, the backslash, invented in 1960, was still pretty much unknown.  A gallon of gas in the USA was ¢27.  George Clooney would be born on 6 May and Barack Obama’s mother was pregnant and maybe in Hawaii.

John XXIII was Pope and the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal had not yet been issued.

We lose perspective on how small the actual capsule was in which Astronaut Alan Sheppard rode into space on top of a Redstone rocket on 5 May 1961.  The Mercury was a little large than your refrigerator welded onto your washing machine.  And about as sophisticated.  Your wrist watch or TiVo is probably more complex than its electronics.

This little capsule, just big enough for a man and a big parachute, was set on top of a short range surface to surface ballistic missile rocket built by Chrysler.   Even though it was for Mercury, it was not built by Lincoln or Ford, come to think about it.  The steering was made by Ford.

Anyway… picture yourself strapped into your refrigerator sitting on top of a 70 foot tube filled with 11,135 pounds of ethyl alcohol, 25,280 pounds of liquid oxygen and 790 pounds of hydrogen peroxide with the blast yield of 500 tons of TNT or a small nuclear warhead.  WAHOOO!

Fifty years ago today, Alan Sheppard rode Liberty 7 into space.

Then he had to come back down… at 11g.  Think about the 3000 degree temperature, just outside your refrigerator of 1.7 m³ of habitable volume.

In 1971 Alan Sheppard walked on the surface of the Moon during the mission of Apollo 14.

He got on top of a 360 feet tall exploding tube filled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and, having traveled the quarter of a million miles in a can the size of a couple Lincoln Town cars with the computing power of your mobile phone and far less memory, stepped out of his protective environment and walked in a few hundred degrees of heat on the lunar landscape in a place named after a 15th century map maker and Camaldolese monk named Fra Mauro.  This is where Apollo 13 was supposed to go.  Their suits sealed up with zippers… mainly.  Sheppard managed to get off the surface of the Moon in the Lincoln Towncar sized Antares with an explosion caused by Aerozine 50 and N2O4 great enough to break the pull of gravity and, with the other two guys, Roosa and Mitchell, came back in one Lincoln Town Car sized can called Kitty Hawk and landed in the ocean after the usual hitting the tiny angle for reentry and enduring the melting heat of friction against the atmosphere.

All without dying.

This year the USA’s manned space program was killed by Pres. Obama.  The next Space Shuttle is the last Space Shuttle.  And it is delayed.

But in 1961 the first American had a ride into sub-orbital space.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. The first 11 years of the American manned space program were one of the technological highlights of human history. We went from Shepard’s brief suborbital flight to Armstrong and Aldrin’s moon landing in eight years.

    As much as I dislike what Obama has done to the program (and elsewhere…), it cannot be blamed solely, or I think even mostly, on him. The Space Shuttle program was itself a step down … after Apollo, we should have built a moon base and headed on to Mars or the near-earth asteroids… and never lived up to the potential it was ‘sold’ with. The Bush administration ‘Vision’ was to cancel it and use the money to build Constellation… but Constellation was critically, critically flawed, so it got canceled. So in a few months we’ll have nothing. The real problem is lack of funding and lack of interest (which drives lack of funding). If we were willing to spend any significant amount of money and effort on it, we would have at least scientific stations on the Moon and landings on Mars and the near asteroids by now. The potentials of nuclear rockets like NERVA would well outperform chemical rockets. And even if we accept the anti-nuke stuff as an unchangeable given, there were still proposals like Sea Dragon (500 tons payload, with a chemical rocket!) But these are 60s proposals. After Apollo, there has been very little real effort put into space, by anyone. (Granted, China became the third nation to develop a manned space program. But its first manned flight was in 2003 … and there have been a total of 3 to date. Not very impressive compared to the first seven or eight years of the American and Soviet space programs.)

    There are two main hopes:
    -Private spaceflight. SpaceX looks like it has a good shot, presuming they can avoid running out of money, and presuming they don’t get sued out of existence the first time someone dies on a manned flight (given enough flights, it *will* happen … if not to SpaceX, to somebody else). Elon Musk has talked about Mars, and he’s only 39. If he can keep the thing going for 20 years or so…
    Also, if Richard Branson / Virgin Group can get suborbital tourism to work, that may boost public interest (but that is intangible and *really* hard to predict)…

    -Political-cultural shifts. As the 60s-70s, sexual-revolution/Three-Mile-Island-panic generation retires from the public sphere, the fear of nuclear power may recede, which may let NASA reinvestigate things like NERVA (which could give us, at least, the Asteroid Belt and nearer planets).

  2. bookworm says:

    50 years ago, I wasn’t born yet (wouldn’t be for another 3 years) but my brother was on the way. My main impression of the Shepard launch comes from the book and movie “The Right Stuff.” In the book, the Mercury astronauts are described (by author Tom Wolfe) as having been “single-combat warriors” comparable to David when he went up against Goliath — the Goliath being the Soviet space program, which had sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit a month before Shepard’s flight.

  3. Charles E Flynn says:

    I was in fifth grade, attending a public school that had some classrooms in an older school building next to the main building. Some of the classrooms in the older building were used by the local parochial school, which was several blocks away. The nuns invited the public school children to visit their classroom so they could watch Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight on television, an amenity the public school did not have. The nuns suggested that we all pray for him.

    As for “Sea Hunt,” my father would watch it and say, “Suddenly, (blub, blub, blub) there it was (blub, blub, blub)” imitating the sound of the SCUBA gear.

  4. asacjack says:

    50 years ago, I was in a 50 kid second grade parochial school being taught by nuns getting ready to make my First Communion. One nun per class. Tuition was $10 per year (unless you were a graduating 8th grader, which was $15 to pay for the diploma.) Even then, some of the working families had a problem making that. Nobody was ever denied due to funding.

    50 years ago, our Churches were filled (at least ours were) for the 6 Sunday morning Masses. No vigils or late afternoon “slacker” Masses yet. The parish was awash in social organizations contributing to the health of the community, much more so than now when the emphasis is on “the community.” We had 4 priests in the parish, with a senior priest in residence. That parish today has 1. And no nuns. We had three daily weekdays Masses and a waiting list to be altar boys.

    We’ve missed the boat somewhere along the line.

  5. Mother says:

    Not yet born.

  6. I was not yet born. But my mother was a 1st grade teacher in Florida at the time, and all the students and teachers went out onto the playground to see the launch.

    In my view abiologistforlife has his the nail on the head. Much as I oppose the Obama Administration’s decision to essentially shut NASA down, the problems were visible back in the early 1970’s — at the latest. Remember the “we beat the Russians to the moon, why do we have to go back” attitude? We could have/should have had a lunar base and a manned Mars mission by the late 70’s/early 80’s at the latest — even with the technology then available. Remember Allen Drury’s novel “The Throne of Saturn”? (Remember Allen Drury?)

    Yes, I know that the Space program was expensive. But it has been estimated that $7.00 of benefit has been received for every $1.00 spent. And how about the huge technological advances made because of, or in conjunction with, the Space program? To say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs for scientists, engineers, machinists, etc.

    What if the Spanish government had told Columbus “Yes, you’ve proved there’s a New World, but why do you need to go back? It’s so expensive?”

    Enough ranting — you get my point!

  7. Andy Milam says:

    I wasn’t even a gleam in my parents eyes yet. Mom was a freshman at Barat College outside Chicago, which doesn’t exist and Dad was a junior in high school in Memphis, TN at the same high school where Elvis graduated, Humes High School. It doesn’t exist as a high school anymore either…it’s a middle school now.

    I can only comment based upon the scope of history.

  8. disco says:

    My mother turned ten in January of 1961 and my father turned 13 in November.

  9. St. Louis IX says:

    Had not yet been introduced to the world.

  10. Legisperitus says:

    I was waiting for the mid-Sixties to blow over so I could be born. Little did I know the following years would be worse…

  11. My parents were still children (11-12 years old) in 1961. It must have been an incredibly exciting time, watching the manned space flight program unfold. And the way you’ve described it, Father, it is truly awesome to imagine what those men did. Talk about courage!

    It seems that in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the U.S. and the world at large became caught up in so much chaos that voyages into space didn’t matter any more. It’s a huge shame. It’s still a huge shame today when progress is so often defined by things like “abortion rights” and “gay marriage” and an ever deeper and faster coarsening of society in the name of “freedom of expression” and an insistence on individual license opposed to the common good. All of which has coincided, of course, with the weakening of Christianity in our culture.

    I really hope we will come back to our senses in the next generation or two. I hope I will live to see this nation get back to its own true character and back on the road to true progress.

  12. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I was 4. I remember it vividly. I wanted to be an astronaut until my brother pointed out there were no girl astronauts. Oh well. So I became a scientist instead! With a banjo!

    It was a good time to be alive. Actually, any time is good to be alive! I loved the westerns and thought Lloyd Bridges was the greatest. I love the “Suddenly, (blub, blub, blub) there it was (blub, blub, blub).” Funny!

  13. Peggy R says:

    There were 3 ahead of me in the queue, one on her way 50 years ago today.

  14. benedetta says:

    Also not yet born. I am thoroughly familiar with, knowledgeable of, civil rights movement, music and the movies. The TV shows, I don’t recognize, some of the titles I have some vague idea.

    Big fan of space exploration. There are various amazingly interesting tours at Kennedy Space Center I highly recommend even after the last Shuttle launch, when that happens.

    Can’t fathom the kind of courage and elan shown by the men who willingly went off into space, as described in this post, with the technology as it was, the nuclear blast, the conditions, the tiny quarters, the re-entry burn, parachuting into the sea. It’s amazing that any returned. It’s endlessly fascinating in this household.

    Still in our country when there are financial troubles, when the economy is struggling, where there are real needs to attend to, it’s hard to justify the continued budget for space exploration. For me though it’s hard to justify the federal underwriting of some other things as well. If I had a choice, over, say, funding more and more abortions or NASA…well.

  15. benedetta says:

    And hasn’t the advertising industry become so much more ethical since that flintstones smoking the winstons commercial…(ahem)…fortunately today advertisers and media would never dream of exploiting and targeting in a pressurized way our young people to push them into behaviors or habits which are not healthy for them? We’ve come a long way baby…

  16. gloriainexcelsis says:

    My sixth baby was 4 months old (the oldest would not be 6 for another month), and everything in those years was a blur. I quit playing the organ and directing the choir at church that year, because, for some reason, I was a bit overwhelmed! I did remain in the choir to sing. I remember all these things happening, and marveled, as everyone else. I was proud of our country and yet, I also began to worry, because I saw other things happening that boded ill for our children and our future as a civilization.

  17. Centristian says:

    In 1961, the Lincoln Town Car used by Father Z. to approximate the size of the space capsule did not yet exist. The legendary “suicide doors” Continentals, however, made iconic in America thanks to JFK, were introduced in ’61 by Ford Exec. Robert Strange McNamara, who would–also in 1961–become Kennedy’s Defense Secretary.

  18. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Something else just came to mind. I remember my husband and I, at the request of a priest from our parish, attending meetings at a couple of rabid evangelical churches which were stirring up things against JFK, i.e., our parochial schools had guns hidden in the basements to take over should he become president, the Pope would be ruling our country, etc. We also infiltrated a militia movement (at the request of a military friend and backed by the FBI), which was sure that Chinese were on the Mexican border ready to take over California. I guess I was not as tired as I thought.

  19. Jordanes says:

    1961 was just a few years before my time (my parents were dating at the time and wouldn’t be married until the following year), but all of the Apollo missions from Apollo 8 onward were during my lifetime, and I have memories of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 (the mission missions are some of my very earliest memories, in fact).

    Just one correction: the delayed flight of Endeavor will be the next to last shuttle mission, not the last. Atlantis will be the last shuttle flight, slated for this summer.

  20. frater says:

    I was in 6th grade at SS. Peter and Paul School in Rochester, NY. We had 65 kids and all taught by one School Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Miriam Therese. 5 priests at the church and 17 teaching sisters. 4 daily Masses. Those were great days to be an altar boy.

  21. Space exploration continues There are those who say it has only really just begun, now that the government is out of the way.


  22. irishgirl says:

    I was six years old in 1961, and would be seven in August of that year. I entered first grade in the fall of 1961. I remember hearing about the space program-we may even had had a TV set in the classroom to watch it. Our family were news buffs back then-we watched ‘The Huntley-Brinkley Report’ on NBC.
    Gosh, Father Z, when you mentioned all the songs and TV shows from that year, it sure made me feel ‘old’!

  23. drwob says:

    Sheppard, Glenn, and the others were truly “steely eyed missile men.” Today, guys that brave either become SEALs or orthodox seminarians in a diocesan seminary.

  24. PostCatholic says:

    Things sure are better now. Think how much better they’ll be 50 years from now!

  25. APX says:

    50 years ago today I was still around another 25 years away from being born, and even that was iffy, as my dad was planning on becoming a priest.

  26. DisturbedMary says:

    I was 16. I was Catholic. I attended an all-girls high school in the Bronx run by Ursulines. I studied Latin for 3 years. I got honors in the Auxilium Latinum. It was still a world of authority. No nihilism. Catholic life included regular confession and daily Latin Mass. John XXIII was our jovial Italian pope having replaced Pius XII. There was an innocence as a society, a Church and in our personal lives. The 60s took me (and I think in retrospect, almost everyone) by surprise. By the end of the decade, I was no longer practicing my faith. The world exploded/imploded including the Church, the culture, colleges …. nuns and priests left the Church, sin became what our conscience said it was. We turned inward, towards psychology, away from God who was no longer the center of all meaning. It was a time just before the visible descent began.

  27. HyacinthClare says:

    My goodness, your readership is young, Fr. Z. I was sixteen in 1961, like Disturbed Mary, but I wasn’t Catholic yet. That was 32 years away. Our Chevrolet was pink and gray. I remember reciting the Apostles’ Creed every week in our Methodist Church and asking my mother why we believed in the Holy Catholic Church and didn’t attend it. She said Catholics did strange things. She didn’t have any idea!! Blessed be God for a long life and finding home before I die and go Home.

  28. Fr-Bill says:

    I was taught radio progeramming by a DJ who had progerammed KEWB (San Francisco) and use that knowledge at RenegadeRadio.org (KRNG, Reno) today. I still program Reagan’s socialized medicine comment (it only takes a minute) daily. My wife and I just watched ALL of the Paladin shows over the winter.
    The times seemed simpler (from today’s view), but I lived them in that present with the attitudes I had then.
    Who would have thunk that our American culture would have aimed itself downhill so quicly after 1972?

  29. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Sigh! Forgive me. I saw that this was about 1961 and had 1960 in my brain. As I said, those years were a blur. 3 more young’uns were still to arrive, as well. I’ll be 80 in less than four months. Things are getting pretty blurry, now, too, I guess. AARRGH!

  30. mibethda says:

    In prep school – from the lawn in front of our classroom building with the rest of my schoolmates, watching the vapour trail rising in the east from Sheppard’s Redstone rocket.

  31. Rich says:

    17 years from conception

  32. Andrew says:

    A different perspective:
    In May of 1961 I was looking out from the 5th floor of a building in Bratislava at a motorcade below carrying Russian President Khrushchev on his visit to town and thinking: should I throw a heavy glass ashtray down there? I didn’t know about the Beatles but I knew about Elvis whose music, along with all pop music I considered way below my dignity to listen to. I had a recording of Mozart’s horn concerto, one of my favorites in those days. A record player with replaceable needles, a radio, and a few light bulbs where the only things powered by electricity at our home: we had no TV, no telephone, no refrigerator. We had lots of books however, a small library actually, in various languages, and lots of musical instruments: enough for a large family. On any given day you might hear in one of the bedrooms a string quartet playing some Beethoven or Mendelssohn or one of my brothers playing Pablo Sarasate’s Fantasy on La forza del destino for violin with my mom accompanying him on a piano. My dad had a letter from the Vatican granting him permission to read books that were on the “index”. That made an impression on me. Generally, we didn’t believe anybody anything. We were convinced that the story of Gagarin’s space flight was manufactured by the communists. Mass was still celebrated everywhere in Latin. There were no pamphlets, handouts, announcements, greetings, handholding, commentaries at church: just solemn liturgical action and lots of silence. Every church had a communion rail and the choir was always in the back and there were no guitars of any kind not even the thought of it would have entered our mind. Churches had no heating and in winter you had to be bundled up well for a Mass that usually lasted more than an hour. Two or four confessionals were usually staffed by priests hearing confessions nonstop before, during and after Mass. I have never seen a church locked and the ideal of a locked door on a church would have confounded me greatly. Some of the homilies consisted of thunderous screaming at the congregation as if they were a bunch of criminals. But the churches were packed, in spite of the communist regime’s oppression. Nobody had a car except our neighbor who was somebody important in the communist party. I found out years later that he was an ex priest. His son was of my age and we played together. I was very impressed that they had a jar of peanuts at home which they didn’t eat on the spot. I politely accepted on occasions a handful from his mom and pretended that I didn’t want any more. For me it was a small treasure: I usually got peanuts in a bag as a Christmas present along with one or two oranges and a book. Times they are a changing.

  33. MissOH says:

    I was not even a gleam in my parents eye as they would not be married for another month. Flight is fascinating when I think about the Wright brothers (from my home state and who flew first in the state of my college alma mater) and how far we came in less less than 70 years.

    God has given mankind an awesome and powerful mind and intellect if we use it for good purpose. We have a generous and loving Father.

  34. teaguytom says:

    My parents were in elementary school and I was just one of God’s many thoughts that were to come.

  35. lucy says:

    I wouldn’t be born yet for another three years.

    Andrew – I enjoyed reading your post wholeheartedly.

    My 13 year old daughter spent this year debating around the state of California this very thing. Reforming our policy toward Russia. Their case: Space Shuttle. They argued that the space shuttle program should not be ended. They won some, they lost some.

  36. bernadette says:

    I was in 8th grade at an all girls’ Catholic school, Villa Maria, and loving every minute of it. I wasn’t Catholic but intended to convert as soon as my parents allowed it. A few years later it seemed like the rug was pulled out from under us and I took a detour through several protestant churches before finding my way back home.

  37. Martial Artist says:

    50 years ago today (a Friday) I was in classes in High School, nearing the end of my 10th year of schooling. In the summer of 1963, a bit more than two years later, I had received a college scholarship from my mother’s employer, who was the prime contractor for the Apollo Project’s Command and Service Modules. As a perquisite of having won the scholarship, I was employed for the summer before matriculating to college as an Engineering Messenger in their Downey, California, plant. On one occasion during that summer, I had to deliver a small parcel to the senior management area (Mahogany Row). It was an odd passageway, having a 45° bend to the right halfway along its length. As I approached the bend I realized that there were two men in suits coming the opposite direction. As we neared each other I suddenly recognized one of the men. It was none other than Alan Shepard. By the time I realized Shepard they were starting around the bend going away from me. I glanced over my shoulder and at the same moment, Shepard looked back over his and smiled at me—I have always subsequently assumed that just before we passed my face must have registered some surprise, and that Shepard had observed my reaction, which rather astonished me and suggested to me what a genuinely nice person he likely was.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  38. Art says:

    My parents had not even gone on a date yet 50 years ago.

    I’m not surprised that the electronics in the spacecraft back then was that low-tech though. The electronics up in space has to perform without a hitch while being exposed to sudden and extreme temperature changes along with cosmic radiation. It is a matter of life or death up there – the latest and greatest electronics just hasn’t been tried and tested enough to be reliable. So I wouldn’t be too surprised if the latest spacecrafts are still using 80386 processors!

  39. Athelstan says:

    Not yet born.

    I agree with what abiologistforlife says in the first post. It’s a question of political will, and the will has been lacking. NASA’a budget was already being cut before Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon – a planned extensive program of lunar, orbital and deep space exploration was deeply cut, leaving only seven manned missions to the Moon, three Skylab missions, and Apollo-Soyuz – we didn’t even use all of the Saturn V rockets and Apollo capsules built. President Nixon tried cutting even much of this. And there wasn’t much public outcry: TV ratings for the final moonshoots were minimal. We’d beat the Russkies to the Moon, and that was enough for most people. We had a war in Southeast Asia and a war on poverty to fund. So went the popular thinking.

    Faced with a tougher fiscal environment, NASA instead managed to sell Congress and Nixon on the space shuttle as a much cheaper and safer way to keep manned access to space (or the orbital portion thereof). Of course, it has turned out quite differently, alas.

    This is not to disparage much of what NASA *has* managed to achieve since 1973, especially in robotic space exploration. Think of plucky little Spirit and Opportunity on Mars, or the amazing Voyagers streaking out of the solar system! But it’s hard to think we’ll see major support for a vigorous manned space program back into deep space absent some threat, and most of what happens in orbit will likely come through private enterprise. It will take real leadership to change that trend, and that’s in short supply and mainly focused on what are perceived to be … more pressing issues.

    Otherwise, we’re left to admire the tremendous achievement of NASA and her early astronauts, like Alan Shepard, who accomplished truly heroic feats of space exploration using technology that seems stunningly primitive to us today.

  40. Tony Layne says:

    Not here yet; had to wait until the craziness produced by the Beatles’ arrival in America subsided a bit.

  41. Like HyacinthClare, I am shocked at how young the readers of this blog appear to be. (For what it’s worth, I too wasn’t yet born; in fact, I was 31 years from the womb.) Now if this were NCFishwrap, most of the comments would read something along the lines of “Fifty years ago I was celebrating my 50th birthday.”

    Fr. Z, is there any way to calculate the average age of WDTPRS readers? A poll, maybe?

  42. EWTN Rocks says:

    I have to say I love this post Fr. Z, and all the historical and fun facts (especially the Flintstones commercial)!

    I almost fell off my chair laughing at this: “Picture yourself strapped into your refrigerator sitting on top of a 70 foot tube filled with 11,135 pounds of ethyl alcohol, 25,280 pounds of liquid oxygen and 790 pounds of hydrogen peroxide with the blast yield of 500 tons of TNT or a small nuclear warhead. WAHOOO!”

    I’m glad to say that I was too young 50 years ago to remember anything. However, I’ve heard stories about my brother. He was seven then and would go outside in the middle of the night, sit on the stoop, and stare up at the moon (I don’t think anybody locked their front doors back then). I don’t know what it is about boys and their fascination with the moon….o.k., that’s a bit of a generalization!

  43. Random Friar says:

    Not just a Roman Candle. A Roman Candle made by the lowest bidder!

    Ah, Space. May we visit your endless wonders again soon!

  44. mysticalrose says:

    50 years ago I was nowhere near being born yet. But I love the old-school memories!

  45. VEXILLA REGIS says:

    I was feeling rather pleased with myself , having turned 21 only a few weeks before, living in secure and increasingly prosperous Australia, rejoicing in the fact that Pope John XXIII was gloriously reigning and that everyone loved him, and that my favoured candidate John F.Kennedy was a Catholic and President of our much – loved ally the USA , and everyone loved him, Sir Robert Menzies was our Prime Minister, as he had been for12 years and would be for another 5 years and everyone who thought like me loved him – well admired him -and generally life was pretty good.If it wasn’t for those pesky Communists in Russia! Karol Wojtyla was Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow – but I didn’t know that.I guess those pesky Communists in Russia didn’t even guess what God had in mind for them!

  46. Jayna says:

    Hmmm, 50 years ago, let me think. I believe my mother was three years old.

  47. jflare says:

    I was about -13 years old! *grins*
    My parents, though I’ve ultimately discerned that they grew up roughly 50 miles from each other, had not yet met and would not meet for about another 8 years.
    I can’t say I’ve ever asked my folks what they were doing around the time the space program began. A rough guesstimate places Dad somewhere in seminary studies, so he would’ve been either in Missouri at Conception or in DC at Catholic University. Mom most likely would’ve been in high school, perhaps helping out in one of Grandpa’s pastures or playing a clarinet some of the time. Beyond that, I don’t know. What does a fellow in his early- to mid-20’s do in a seminary in the early 60’s? What does a Methodist girl DO in high school about the same time?

    For some other food for thought:
    Much as I’m as prone to be a space junky as anyone, I’m not entirely convinced that space efforts..justify themselves. I’m not thinking only in terms of finances, but also morals and families. ..And parents responsibilities as parents.
    Apollo 13 told the story of the three astronauts for the mission and so forth. Anyone else remember the scene in which Jim Lovell first approves, then disapproves, his daughter’s Halloween costume, mostly because his wife intervenes? In general, the more I’ve learned about the space program, the less impressed I become. We advanced technologically perhaps, but we didn’t improve our morals a lick. If anything, we regressed.
    I’m not blaming this on the space program per se, nor suggesting that these problems would not have happened otherwise. I AM concerned though, that too often, we don’t consider the consequences that families associated with various efforts will endure.

    Heck, even without all the fanfare, during my years in the military, I saw many families undergo a great deal of..family stress..simply because one or the other parent might be deployed a lot.
    I’m concerned about what children in these families truthfully learn about Truth.
    I can’t imagine that the public limelight helps very much.

  48. Kypapist says:

    Fifty years ago I was eleven, a Californian transplanted to Kentucky. The space program was always interesting, but I am always confused when people talk about the expense of it, as though bundles of thousand dollar bills were shoved into the rocket, sent off to the moon and left there! The money was spent here on Earth paying salaries and buying (American made?) goods and services to run the program, not to mention the odd senator or congressman to vote for funding. Now the money (worth a great deal less due to inflation) will be spent somewhere else – maybe buying needles for addicts or condoms for grade schoolers.

  49. MSgirl says:

    I was in seventh grade. My parents, God rest their souls, carefully taught me that Roman Catholics were degraded life forms, somewhere between ants and reptiles. It was a simpler time and, seen through Protestant eyes, my family was secure socially and morally. That made us vulnerable.
    I entered the Church at Epiphany in 1990. That makes me 21. Benedicamus Domino.

  50. AngelineOH says:

    50 years ago I turned 9. We were Appalachian and dirt poor. We lived in a cement block house on a hill outside a small town, 4 kids in one bedroom and never realizing everyone didn’t live that way. Our town endured a severe flood that year and I can remember the roads to town and school being closed so we missed school. We were awed at the destruction then and the flooding today brings back those memories. Though my parents never darkened the door of a church, they made sure we went at least for a while – to any church as long as it wasn’t Catholic.
    Gratefully, after many years and trials, Christ brought me into the Church in 1990.

  51. EWTN Rocks says:


    I am so sorry for the trials and destruction you endured when you were young. I share at least one thing with you: I am extremely grateful that Christ brought me back to the church last year.

  52. jflare says:

    Hello Kypapist,
    I can’t speak for anyone else, but over the years, I’ve become somewhat uncomfortable with the legacy of the space program. It’s true enough that many of those millions went to paying salaries and equally worthy causes, but the reason for why we did it still bugs me.

    Ultimately, whatever reasons we gave, I cannot forget that much of our reason for going to the moon came from competing against the Soviets in a manner which could dictate our victory.
    Seems to me we spent a huge amount on that competition. Could we have achieved the same goal but spent less by pursuing different goals?
    How much of the space program came about as a means to turn attention away from other political efforts like Vietnam, Johnson’s War on Poverty, or similar concerns?

    Could we have come closer to world peace by better enabling our churches to do what they might with evangelism?
    I’m intensely bothered by the fact that, in spite of the passion that our Founders offered, we’ve become a nation too dependent on success as dictated by the federal government.

    Seems to me we could, as a People, accomplish a great deal more good on our own, if the feds would not demand so much attention and money.

  53. jflare says:

    I’ll risk annoying everyone with one last, hopefully slightly less acidic, thought:
    Essentially, the space program could be seen as virtuous because it provided us with technology, hope, and many (highly paid) jobs. That’s precisely the problem though: The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT had to provide funding for technology, hope, and jobs.

    That could be described in somewhat more cynical terms as..a very classy welfare program. Corporate welfare, to be sure, but welfare notwithstanding.
    (Don’t laugh, I wondered for some time if I and/or some of my military weather associates might have commissions and roles in the military so that Pres Clinton could say that he’d provided us with jobs….)

    Is that the kind of value that we seek to promote in America today?
    Or do we seek for people to dream, act, and believe without having the federal government tell them how they ought use their time?

  54. benedetta says:

    jflare, Wonder what people did back then without the corporate bailout/welfare, the credit cards, the plastic bags…the instantly accessible porn for one and all…you know, before Elvis and the Beatles checked out of reality all enthused on the drugs which led eventually to the sacrificing of generations in inner city to the sale of drugs as financial support/violence/middle and upper class addiction? But then there was the woodstock and that made it all so glorious…At least it was well-intentioned. Never to late to say well maybe this didn’t go as planned…

  55. eulogos says:

    I was in 5th grade in the 1960/61 school year. We watched the Alan Sheppard flight on a black and white TV in class.
    I wasn’t Catholic, but most of my classmates were.

    I would think it of great value if our tax money were spent for a manned space flight program. It isn’t like human beings to sit around on one continent while there is an unexplored one across an ocean. So why should we sit around on one planet…. Maybe it will be done by private enterprise instead. It will be done.

    Thanks for asking.
    Susan Peterson

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