The date was February 20, 1962. Ohio native John Glenn became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth. I was a toddler, not quite three years old, probably staring out a window as snowflakes gently fell around my home in the Western Pennsylvania town of Du Bois. I had no clue that a historical event was unfolding – one that would captivate my imagination of space travel and someday living on the moon.
I had a poster with colorful illustrations of all the planets, I built model replicas of the Saturn V rocket and the Lunar Lander – complete with legs that extended as it came to rest on my own imaginary moon.
I remember the Apollo 13 flight that put three Americans in dire straights. If not for the creativity of those brave astronauts and Mission Control using “ball-and-twine” like solutions that only MacGyver himself would have marveled at – they would have perished. I stayed glued to the TV – watching the drama unfold when I was suppose to be heading off to school.
I remember the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster in 1986 – when the first school teacher to fly in space lost her life along with six other astronauts – just 73 seconds into the flight. And then there was Columbia – the shuttle that broke apart as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003. I was in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania photographing the world famous Punxsutawney Phil festivities when I was shocked by the news.
But probably my all-time favorite memory of the NASA space program came when I was in Orlando with my family enjoying Disney World on October 30, 1998. As we were exiting the park, we heard a loud roar off in the distance as Space Shuttle Discovery took flight from the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island. There was a large plume of rocket engine exhaust marking the location of lift-off that made chills run through my spine. On that flight was the oldest human to ever fly in space – none other than astronaut and then Ohio Senator John Glenn – all of 77 years old. And that record still stands today.
Although I never became an astronaut – I've lived vicariously through the lives and legends of our very own American heroes.
To view over 600 videos on the life of John Glenn, visit www.johnglennbio.com
So what is YOUR favorite memory of the NASA space program? Please share your thoughts by clicking the comment link at the top of this article.