Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The End of Apollo

Considered one of the most memorable Apollo launches, the Apollo 17 blasted off from Launch Pad 39 at Kennedy Space Center on December 7, 1972. This was the first night time launch and it made a spectacular sight. The crew was made up by Command Module Pilot Ronald E. Evans , civilian geologist Jack Schmitt and the Spacecraft Commander Eugene Cernan they were lifted up from the Cape by a Saturn V Rocket.

As usual the CBS Newscaster Walter Cronkite was reporting live. But he made one his most embarrassing gaffes of his career when he said that the night launch would "light up the sky like a firecracker. (There was a brief pause.) Uh, excuse me, Wally," Cronkite continued to guest commentator and former Astronaut Wally Schirra, "I should day, perhaps, like a roman candle."

Gathered at the launch viewing were hundreds of VIP’s and celebrities, the local paper reported
that celebrities were dime a dozen. Pictures in the press showed celebrities Eva Gabor pointing to the fiery liftoff and Franks Sinatra staring and Jonathan Winter puffing a stogey, all captioned with “everyone was bedazzled.” There was confusion to go around. Assigned seating in the bleaches was not observed by some as some people got it wrong.. Former Florida Gov. Kirk got kicked out of a VIP stand for sitting in a taken seat, he had to leave as he didn't have a pass. Stumbling around the crowds looking confused was Asian military man, his uniform draped with braiding, his shoulder festooned with stars, he wandered around the bleachers lost, unable to communicate. An elderly woman, not a big shot, steered the general back to his seat. Meanwhile in space the Saturn rocket headed off on a journey to the moon.

The lunar module made a soft landing in the Taurus-Littrow region of the moon. The head lines reported, “Landing Smoother Than Any” The newspaper dated December 12, 1972 reported astronaut Cernan as saying, 'It is Beautiful Out Here’. During the mission a mishap caused the fender on the Moon Rover to break and thus driving was difficult with lunar dust flying up at the moon rover riders. "I got to make a fender tonight," Astronaut Gene Cernan said. "Man I hate this dust." Radio communications with Houston Control resulted in a solution where a map was folded in such a way and duck taped to make a temporary fender, and it worked.

Traveling along the moon surface an interesting discovery was made, orange soil in a crater. Astronaut Jack Smitt hesitantly suggested the strange appearing soil might have originated from a volcanic type vent, but added "But I hate to even suggest it." After all the experiments had been performed it was time to return to Earth. A short ceremony was held to end this final Apollo mission to the Moon. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt unveiled a plaque commemorating all six Apollo landings on the moon and acknowledging all the ground crews that made this scientific achievement possible.

"This valley of history has seen mankind completes his first evolutionary steps into the universe," geologist Schmitt said, "leaving the planet earth and going forth into the universe. Cernan recognized the support of the ground crews and wokers. He concluded his farewell, “God willing, We'll Return”.

A letter from NASA director Kurt H. Debus on December 19, 1972 congratulated everyone. ‘I think it was entirely appropriate as Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt positioned the American Flag on the moon that it was dedicated to all those people who made the Apollo lunar landings possible. It was quite a tribute and well deserved one for all of you. Sincerely, Kurt H.Debus’

Next month’s story is entitled ‘Apollo Memories.‘ Oral histories on the Apollo project will be shared. Send this Senior Life writer your memories of your favorite Apollo launches and moon landings. Include in your email what you were doing at the time and how this chapter of history effected you. Topics may include local eateries like Mousetrap or Ramon’s.


FLORIDA TODAY December 1972
Space Walk of Fame Museum, Titusville
Photo credit: NASA Archives

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The 1952 Election: Eisenhower vs Stevenson ""low down tricks to win the November 4 ballots!”"

50 years ago the 1952 election was about deciding the direction of an unpopular war. The Korean war was two years old and the candidates were battling to win an election that would determine the course of the war. It was war time hero, General Dwight Eisenhower on the Republican ticket versus
Adlai Stephenson on the Democratic ticket.

The Melbourne Times reported the elections of 1952. The headlines on October 2nd splashed the declaration, “Ike says "No Sense" In U.S: Bearing Brunt of War.“. Eisenhower “Ike” made it clear he wanted to replace our troops with South Korean ones. On Oct 16, the issue read “Tumultuous receptions are given Ike in South and Adlai in West. GOP vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon carried the campaign to Indiana. “ Ending the Korean War was the main theme and the newspaper reported that the discussion took on the appearance of the "The great debate," a nationwide discussion of foreign policy that followed the recall from Korea of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Eisenhower put forth a proposal to reduce American troops by replacing them with them with more South Korean troops. He quoted from a letter from Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet the United Nations 8th army commander, saying the South Korean Area was in "apple pie" order and if more South Koreans would be brought into service, American divisions could be released.” Adlai Stevenson retaliated and called Eisenhower’s proposals a “Cynical search for votes” and President Truman used the same tone with different words, he called the general's proposals "low down tricks to win the November 4 ballots!”

Eisenhower castigated President Truman's administration as having blundered into the Korean war despite repeated warnings by military and GOP leaders and he said that he would “head an administrative resolve "to forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war- until that job is honorably done." "That job requires a personal trip to Korea," He said. "I shall make that trip." The same night, Adlai accused Eisenhower of making this a "Sly and ugly campaign".

Election day and the paper reported on Dwight D. Eisenhower landslide victory over Democrat nominee Adlai Stevens that ended a 20 year reign by the Democratic Party. Up to this point Eisenhower received more votes than any presidential candidate in history. President Truman offered President-elect Eisenhower the use of the White House plane “Independence” for his flight to Korea but Eisenhower declined preferring to use an US Army aircraft. Locally the Eau Gallie precinct polled the greatest majority vote for Eisenhower more than any precinct in the Brevard County. The Eau Gallie Republican Headquarters was located at the Oleander Hotel. With a proximity close to the Eau Gallie Library this structure Oleander Hotel still stands,currently as the former Conchy Joe’s Restaurant.

Another memorable election was the 1960 election of Senator John F. Kennedy. Kennedy opened the last day of his presidential campaign with a charge that Vice President Richard Nixon believes that peace can be secured "by parades and visits to the Soviet Union." But Kennedy said in Providence RI that the productive power of the United States "put to great purpose is the only real answer to the struggle with the communists." Kennedy’s approach was the “give them hell.” In another final campaign speech JFK committed himself to education and vowed to give teachers a pay hike. JFK gave a pledge of a fighting administration for peace "for generations to come." and get this country going.

President Eisenhower said of Nixon his Vice President and Nixon’s running mate, “offer the nation "the finest type of leadership that is available to the nation.” 67 million voters turned out for this election. Kennedy won but with a narrow margin and Florida gave Nixon all of its ten votes.