Apollo 11

The Apollo 50th Anniversary Stamp Ceremony

I was able to add the 50th anniversary Apollo stamp to my signed and 1st day issued 25th anniversary stamps!

I was able to add the 50th anniversary Apollo stamp to my signed and 1st day issued 25th anniversary stamps!

Five years ago I wrote a blog post right here talking about my experience of being at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (at that time twenty years ago) for the unveiling of the 25th anniversary Apollo 11 stamps. Well, now I get to add on to that story just a bit. Unless you have been living under a rock you know that this weekend is the 50th anniversary of mankind making the first boot prints on the Moon. Just like at the Smithsonian 25 years ago, the USPS has issued a brand new set of stamps to commemorate this historic milestone...two Apollo 11 50th anniversary edition stamps. The grand unveiling of these stamps was on Friday July 19th at the Saturn V Center at the Kennedy Space Center. 

I have had a couple of very busy months of work related travel and vacation and my tight schedule continues for the next month. So this past Friday was one of only a few days I would be in the office for a while, so I had already scheduled a trip to the Saturn V center to scout out a location to setup telescopes next week (our KSC astronomy club is supporting an event there next week). But I didn’t realize until the night before that the 50th anniversary stamp event was going to be happening at the same time I had already coordinated our little scouting party for. The coincident continues when I realized that the astronomy club member that was going with me on Friday was a medical doctor for the Apollo astronauts...Doctor Wyck Hoffler. Wyck is one of the founding members of our KSC astronomy club and back when he worked on the Apollo program he was physically on the recovery ships for all but a few of the Apollo missions!

Doctor Wyck Hoffler and I in front of the Saturn V rocket during the 50th anniversary stamp ceremony

Doctor Wyck Hoffler and I in front of the Saturn V rocket during the 50th anniversary stamp ceremony

So Wyck and I scouted out locations for telescope setup for our event next week and we also got to see the stamp unveiling and purchase some of the 1st day issued stamps. But what makes this even more special for me was that I was able to take my 1st day issue 25th anniversary stamps that I had signed at the Smithsonian 25 years ago by the artist that designed the stamps and have as 50th anniversary stamp added to them and have it 1st day issued...all on the same card. I was in Washington D.C. 25 years ago as part of a High School space settlement design competition, so that was before I even started my career. Now about 20 years into my career I got to be part of a similar event with a friend of mine that had a very significant role in the Apollo program. It is days like this where you really have to pinch yourself and ask “did I really just get to be a part of this?”

Moon Shot T+45 Years

45 years ago today the human race set foot on another object in Solar System...human space exploration had begun. In the afternoon of 1969 at 3:17 pm eastern Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon. The 1st step on the lunar surface was about 6 hours later at 9:56 pm eastern. I wouldn't even be born for several more years, but this single event ended up having a rather profound impact on my life. I grew up dreaming of space. My grandma's next door neighbor was a professional astronomer so I got to peer through his enormous telescopes anytime he was out viewing from his driveway. My interest in space continued into high school where I was encouraged by my science teacher to enter not one but two space design contests. It was the 2nd contest, a team contest, that brought me and my team to Washington D.C in the summer of 1994. 20 years ago I was at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum for the 25th anniversary of Apollo 11. To commemorate the event the Air and Space museum held a 1st day of issue ceremony for the new US Postal Service stamps (a 29 cent stamp and a $9.95 express mail stamp). After the ceremony the artists behind the design of the stamps were available to sign the the stamps (which were available for sale and stamped as "1st day of issue cancellation" by the Post Office). So I bought the poster of the iconic picture of Buzz Aldrin standing on the surface of the Moon, attached several stamps to the poster, had them 1st Day of Issue stamped right there on the poster and had the stamp designers sign the poster right under the stamps. I have this poster proudly displayed in my home. For me, this is a personal link to one of the most important events in human history and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Below is a photo gallery of the framed poster that hangs in our living room as well as some of the stamps and other collectibles that I picked up from Air and Space that day.

I didn't know it know then, but later down the road I would make yet another connection with this historic event. Fast forward about 10 years. I was now working for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. As a side job for fun I was also working as a flight coach for a company called Zero Gravity. My job with Zero Gravity was to fly in a Boeing 727 aircraft and go "weightless". The aircraft would fly a parabolic flight path such that when the aircraft was at the top of the parabola the passengers would experienced about 30 seconds of reduced gravity. We would all get to experience various levels of reduced gravity...lunar gravity, Mars gravity and finally zero gravity or "weightlessness" as many people call it. My job was to ensure that the passengers remained safe and had a great time during those very short but exhilarating seconds that we were free from the shakles of Earth's gravity. It really is an amazing experience. Not to long after I started doing these flights for the company I had the honor of working on a flight that included Buzz Aldrin! Buzz was flying with us as part of a special promotion...get to experience lunar gravity with someone who has actually walked on the Moon. So this was quite an experience for everyone flying that day...including Buzz. You see, this was going to be the 1st time since Buzz stepped off the surface of the Moon in 1969 that he had experienced lunar gravity. Not only did I get the once in a lifetime chance to experience lunar gravity with someone who has actually been there, but Buzz was assigned to my group on the flight. This put me in a rather interesting situation. Part of my job was to talk to my group before and during the flight and explain what they were about to experience. I have to say it was a little intimidating having to explain to my group what to expect when we enter the parabola for lunar gravity when one of the people in my group has actually walked on the Moon! After the flight my best friend joked with me and asked what I was going to do next...teach Tiger Woods how to play golf?

Me with Buzz Aldrin after our Zero-G flight

I'm now 15-years into my engineering career with NASA and I still have my sights set on the stars. I'm lucky enough to be part of a team that routinely launches spacecraft into space. I got to work on the Pluto New Horizons mission (which will flyby Pluto this time next summer), I also worked on the Mars Curiosity Rover mission for over 5 years and it is just half way into its mission on the surface of Mars. Last November I helped launch the MAVEN mission, which is a Mars orbiter that will enter into orbit around Mars this September. Most recently I helped launch the OCO-2 mission into orbit around the Earth to help understand the carbon cycle on the Earth. But despite all of these amazing mission I have been lucky enough to be apart of I am still aiming for the next "moon shot" for humanity. My goal is to be involved with the 1st human mission to Mars when it happens. I'm not getting any younger and we are still quite a few years away from such a mission, but I still believe that we will have humans on the surface of Mars within my lifetime and I intend to be involved. Thinking back to all those years ago looking up at the stars through my grandma's neighbor's telescope if someone would have told me that I would be doing what I am doing today I wouldn't have believed them. Maybe my future goal isn't so lofty after all...

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