I remember June 3rd 1965.
Edward H. White II was the first American to walk in space. I wonder if much of anybody remembers his name now. Even Neil Armstrong is getting to be a trivia question. Michael Collins always was. White gave his life to it all two years later, engulfed in flames inside his Apollo mission capsule during a training session.
They were all a certain kind of wild man type then. They were test pilots who drove things through the clouds that might disintegrate at any minute. They seemed to all be a little odd, and all in the same way. The gamut of things they had to know and do and endure made you end up with a kind of person smart enough to accomplish what was necessary and dumb enough to try it. The mixture of intense boredom and wild-eyed excitement seemed to attract a kind of laconic, self-regulating type. They'd endure all the foolishness required of them for a chance to strap a rocket on their back.
The NASA page where this picture is found mentions the gold plated visor he wore to protect him from the sun's rays outside the atmosphere, but I remembered that anyway, from Walter Kronkite or Chet Huntley or someone else on the news. It is the odd details like that you remember across the decades, I guess.
I don't remember anyone ever asking anybody involved what their political affiliation was, or mentioning it if it was known. You could pry a story out of jet jockeys like Chuck Yeager about hard drinking and trips to Mexico on their day off. But nobody drove 1000 miles wearing a diaper to kidnap another astronaut in some lamebrain love triangle, behavior that seems to indicate only that the job has become such a joke that just about anyone could do it now; and just about anyone is exactly what we've got.
The astronauts would stand in the Rose Garden and accept their baubles, and I don't recall any of them using the occasion to make any vicious, partisan displays of pique over the politics of the fellow who lived there. They all just sort of stood around being American.
Me too. How about you? It is a marvelous thing to be.