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2003 Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction

  Photo Credits: Mine
Scott Carpenter talks with Lexie and Mary at the 2003 Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Banquet
Scott Carpenter talks with Lexie and Mary at the 2003 Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Banquet
Scott Carpenter and Lexie at the AHOF  Induction Banquet
A closer view of Scott Carpenter talking with Lexie
Scott Carpenter and Lexie look up at the camera during dinner.
Scott Carpenter and Lexie look up at the camera during dinner.
Edgar Mitchell, Walt Cunningham, and Lexie at the reception before the Induction Banquet
Jerry, Lexie, and Buzz Aldrin at the pre-dinner reception.
Edgar Mitchell, Walt Cunningham and Lexie
Lexie, me, and Buzz Aldrin
Gordon Cooper, Lexie, and Mary at the pre-dinner reception.
Gordon Cooper, Lexie and Mary at the Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Gala
Lexie with John Young at the pre-dinner reception.
Lexie with Al Worden at the pre-dinner reception.
Lexie with John Young at the AHOF Reception
Lexie with Al Worden at the AHOF Reception
Jerry, John Glenn, Lexie, and Mary a the pre-dinner reception.
Jerry, John Glenn, Lexie, and Mary at the pre-dinner reception.
Lexie, Fred Haise, and Mary at the pre-dinner reception.
Lexie, Fred Haise, and Mary at the reception before the Induction Banquet
Jim Lovel welcomes Story Musgrave to the Astronaut Hall of Fame
Jim Lovell welcomes Story Musgrave to the Astronaut Hall of Fame
Jim Lovell welcomes Sally Ride to the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Jim Lovell welcomes  Sally Ride to the Astronaut Hall of Fame
Bob Crippen and Rick Hauck at the Induction.
Bob Crippen shakes the hand of Rick Hauck at the 2003 AHOF Induction Ceremony

On Thursday, June 19th, 2003, Mary, Lexie and I flew into Orlando, Florida for the 2003 Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies.  The gala banquet for the induction was scheduled for Friday night June 20th.  At that banquet we were going to be seated as guests of Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter.

Friday morning Mary was not feeling very good.  She must have picked up some kind of 24 hour bug.  I felt really bad for her because I did not want her to miss out on having dinner with Carpenter.  It would be awful for her to get this close and to have to stay behind in the hotel room.

While Mary rested in the room, Lexie and I went down to the beach.  We enjoyed playing in the sand and the waves.  After a couple of hours we went back to the room to check on Mary.  I was really worried about her.  I had hoped that she would recover in time for the banquet but as the day wore on my hopes grew dimmer.

Lexie and I changed clothes and went down to the hotel restaurant for lunch. Mary still was not feeling well.  We took Mary a sandwich back to the room.  If she did get hungry later, at least there would be something available for her to eat.

After lunch, Lexie and I went back to enjoy the beach. While we were on the beach, I noticed former astronaut Owen Garriott walking with his wife.  I pointed Garriott out to Lexie but did not introduce her. I didn't want to intrude upon his private time.  I told Lexie, “Lexie that is an astronaut.”  She looked at the gray haired man rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah right, Papaw.”  Later that night when I pointed him out at the banquet, she would become a believer.

I told Lexie at the beach that it would be just her and me going to the banquet.  I gave up hope that Mary would make it. We got back to the room and I started pressing my jacket and trousers for the banquet.  I was depressed about Mary's illness. 

Ten minutes before Lexie and I were going to leave, Mary announced that she felt good enough to go to the banquet.  She got herself together quickly and off we went.

We were a little behind, but arrived at the KSC Visitors Center in time.  A bus took us out to the Saturn V Center.  Mary, Lexie and I got off of the bus and headed into the reception area building.  I went to the bar to get Mary and Lexie some soft drinks.  When I got back to them they were talking with Jim Lovell and Scott Carpenter.

Lovell and Carpenter were very friendly and it seemed like they knew us.  At first I thought that someone from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation must have pointed us out to them.  We were supposed to have dinner with Scott Carpenter at that banquet that night. Sometime in the future we were going to have dinner with Jim Lovell at this restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois.

As we talked with Carpenter and Lovell, it became clear that they did not actually know who we were.  It was just a coincidence that we met up with the two of them simultaneously and they were just greeting people attending the banquet.

We talked a little bit about our upcoming experiences with them.  It was time for them to move off and greet other people. We introduced Lexie to Edgar Mitchell and Walt Cunningham.  I asked Mitchell and Cunningham if they would pose for a photo with Lexie and they agreed.

Cunningham and his wife remembered us from the dinner at the autograph show in Washington, DC in May.  Cunningham smiled and remarked, “I just cant get away from you.”

The next person that I wanted to introduce Lexie to was Buzz Aldrin.  A man talking with Aldrin asked me if I would take a photo of the two of them with his camera.  I was more than happy to do that.  In return, I asked him if he could take a photo of us with Aldrin.

He agreed and I handed him my camera.   Immediately he took a photo before we even had a chance to pose. He started to hand my camera back. I had to tell him that we wanted a photo where we were looking at the camera.  So he took another photo.  This time when I got the camera back I noticed that he had cut Mary out of the photo!

Now I had to ask him to take one more photo.  By this time, Aldrin was ready to move on.  He did not seem thrilled when we asked him for yet another photo.  I couldn't believe the guy taking the photos was so careless.  After all I had agreed to help him out.

The next astronaut that we introduced Lexie to was Gordon Cooper.  He was over standing in the reconstructed Apollo 8 firing room at the Saturn V center. It had only been a couple of weeks since Mary and I watched the movie “The Right Stuff” with Cooper in Hollywood.  I took a photo of Cooper with Lexie and Mary.

John Glenn was standing near by.  We certainly wanted to introduce Lexie to him.  As we were talking with Glenn, Al Hollinquist offered to take a photo of Mary, Lexie, and I with Glenn.  Al did a great job taking that photo and I really appreciated it.

After Glenn we went back into the reception room and spotted John Young.  Young was the third moon walker that Lexie would get to meet that night.  We asked Young if he would mind posing for a photo with Lexie.  He was happy to do so.

When I tried to take a photo of Young with Lexie, I couldn't get the camera to work.   I got nervous fumbling around with the camera. I assumed that Young would lose his patience for posing.

I figured out that the memory card in my digital camera was full.  I apologized to Young for the delay and said “I'm sorry but my memory card got filled up.”  Young joked, “I have that same problem.”  It was pretty funny.

I swapped out the memory card for another one and had the camera ready to go in about sixty seconds.  Those sixty seconds seemed to take forever to me.  Young watched me very closely as I swapped the card.  He seemed genuinely interested in the process.

After I took the photo, Young said to me, “If you have any problems with roaches, just hang that picture of me in your bathroom and there wont be any roaches left.”  Who would have thought that Young would have been so personable?

I noticed Al Worden with some people over to the side of the room.  It was getting near the time when we would have to take our seats for the banquet.  We asked Al if he would mind posing for a photo with Lexie.  Apparently we had bad timing because I don't think Worden was too happy for our intrusion.  He did however comply and the photo turned out fine.

The last astronaut that we introduced Lexie to at the reception before the banquet was Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise.  Haise was attending the banquet with his grandson.  When we went up to him Haise introduced his grandson to us.  That was a nice feeling.

Owen Garriott and Ed Gibson were also at the reception.  We did not have time to talk with them.  I did point Garriott out to Lexie to confirm that he was the man that we saw walking on the beach.

We saw some shuttle astronauts, but we did not have time to talk with them.  Those astronauts included Rick Hieb, Bruce Melnick, Rick Hauck, Bob Crippen, Andy Allen, Brewster Shaw, Brian Duffy, and Jim Wetherbee.

At dinner we were seated at the table with Scott Carpenter.  I was seated on Carpenter's right side. Lexie was seated on his left side. Mary was seated next to Lexie.  To my right was a young Marine Lieutenant Pilot.

He was a previous scholarship winner from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.  He also was the 2003 recipient of the Marine Corps Joe Foss Award.  That award honors the year's best Marine Corps pilot graduate based on air combat maneuvering.

Our time with Scott Carpenter was absolutely fantastic.  We had a wonderful conversation.  Carpenter was so easy to talk with. He asked me more about myself than I asked him about himself.  I was explaining things to him about what it is like to grow up and work on a farm. He had me explain to him how a center pivot irrigation system works.

Scott told Lexie some things about the Sealab project.  He explained to her how the air stayed inside of Sealab like an upside down tea cup.

Near the end of the evening, a female representative from Warner Home Video came over to our table talk with Carpenter.  Warner Home Video sponsored the gala banquet and also sponsored the induction ceremonies on Saturday.

Carpenter introduced me to the woman and told her that I was a big supporter of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. I explained to her that Mary and I had been out to Hollywood as Gordon Cooper’s guests for the re-release of “The Right Stuff.”  I then asked her if she would sign my leather bound copy of “The Right Stuff.” That was the same book that I had taken out to Hollywood for signatures of the cast and crew.

She was really impressed at Mary and my support for the ASF and inscribed the book “To Jerry, someone who really has the right stuff!”  She then asked me if I would like to get John Glenn’s signature in the book.  Glenn was sitting at her table.  I was thrilled at the possibility of adding Glenn and told her that yes I would like it.  She took my book heading into the direction of her table and disappeared.

The evening was coming to a close.  Most of the dignitaries were leaving or had already left.   We had said our good byes and thanks to Scott Carpenter. My copy of “The Right Stuff” still had not come back.  I was beginning to get concerned.  I was afraid that we would need to get back on the buses and I wouldn't be able to retrieve my book.

I was relieved when I saw her headed back towards our table.  She was successful in adding John Glenn’s signature to my book.  She also got me an unexpected bonus; she had Buzz Aldrin add his signature to the book.  I was overwhelmed by her act of generosity.

I was so thrilled after our time with Carpenter and the other astronauts.  We got back to our hotel room and went to bed.  I didn't sleep much that night, because I was just too excited.

We went to the induction ceremony the next day.  It was held at the Kennedy Space Center.  We had reserved VIP seats near the front of the crowd.  I noticed astronaut Rick Hieb was sitting near us.

Actor Lance Henrickson who portrayed Wally Schirra in “The Right Stuff” acted as master of ceremonies during the induction.  He introduced the hall of fame astronauts.

The astronauts were introduced one by one and took their appointed seats on the stage.  While this was happening we noticed that the weather looked more and more ominous.

The clouds were getting darker and darker. Things really looked bad. It was difficult to concentrate on the induction speeches with the threatening weather.

Inevitably, the clouds opened and the rain poured out.  Some people sitting next to us were kind enough to share their umbrellas with us.  Everyone was glad when the induction wrapped up so that they could retreat to someplace that was dry.


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UPDATED : February 5, 2007
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