40 years ago today…

40 years ago, today, the astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 splashed back to Earth. We nearly lost the astronauts on this ill-fated mission. Instead, we learned something about American ingenuity, teamwork, and, ultimately, the enduring-yet-fragile, if not finicky, relationship between the public and our national space program. Read PC Mag’s piece about President Obama’s effort to address concerns and criticisms, from the likes of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, “that the U.S. intends to remain a world leader with its space program,” despite plans to abandon related programs.
(NASA and the astronauts ended up using the moon’s gravitational force as a slingshot to hurl the Shuttle back towards space. The drama aroused a long-sleepy American public which had grown–and, arguably, still is–complacent to the manned-space program. You can see pictures and learn more about this here.)
I had the pleasure of spending time with one of those heroes, James Lovell. About 15 years ago, former Discover Magazine editor, Jeffrey Kluger (who is now at Time Magazine) wrote a fascinating book, Lost Moon, detailing the dramatic events of this historic mission. The book was turned into a movie, Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks as Lovell.
Disney Publishing owned Discover at the time, and the release of this book coincided nicely with a program I ran called the Discover Magazine Technology Awards. The Awards culminated each year at Walt Disney World (talk about FUN) and James Lovell graciously agreed to host the Discover Awards TV show, from Epcot. We weren’t able to record any parts of the show until every guest left the park–after midnight! We filmed straight through until roughly 5:30am. He was such a trooper.  I’ll never forget that experience. I’ll post pictures when I’m back home in Philly.
Everyone should have the opportunity to meet an astronaut. If you haven’t yet had that opportunity, I’ve got the next best thing for you. I’ll be interviewing Dr. Story Musgrave who’s been on six shuttle missions. He performed the first space walk on Challenger’s first flight and later led the effort to repair the Hubble Telescope via another space walk! (The Hubble’s turning 20 this week).  Is there anything in particular you’d like me to ask him? Fire away! darlene@sciencecheerleader.com