On Thursday, June 19th,
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.
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.
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
and I changed clothes and went down to the hotel restaurant for lunch.
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
lunch, Lexie and I went back to enjoy the beach. While we were on the
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.
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
for the banquet. I was depressed about
minutes before Lexie and I were going to leave, Mary announced that she
good enough to go to the banquet. She
got herself together quickly and off we went.
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.
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
have dinner with Jim Lovell at this restaurant in Lake Forest, Illinois.
we talked with Carpenter and Lovell, it became clear that they did not
know who we were. It was just a
coincidence that we met up with the two of them simultaneously and they
just greeting people attending the banquet.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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!
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.
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
since Mary and I watched the movie “The Right Stuff” with Cooper in Hollywood. I
took a photo of Cooper with Lexie and Mary.
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
and I with Glenn. Al did a great job
taking that photo and I really appreciated it.
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.
I tried to take a photo of Young with Lexie, I couldn't get the camera
work. I got nervous fumbling around
with the camera. I assumed that Young would lose his patience for
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
swapped out the memory card for another one and had the camera ready to
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.
I took the photo, Young said to me, “If you have any problems with
just hang that picture of me in your bathroom and there wont be any
left.” Who would have thought that Young
would have been so personable?
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.
last astronaut that we introduced Lexie to at the reception before the
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
pivot irrigation system works.
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.
the end of the evening, a female representative from Warner Home Video
over to our table talk with Carpenter. Warner
Home Video sponsored the gala banquet and
also sponsored the
induction ceremonies on Saturday.
introduced me to the woman and told her that I was a big supporter of
Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. I explained to her that Mary and I
out to Hollywood as Gordon Cooper’s guests for the re-release of “The
Stuff.” I then asked her if she would
sign my leather bound copy of “The Right Stuff.” That was the same book
had taken out to Hollywood for signatures of the cast and crew.
was really impressed at Mary and my support for the ASF and inscribed
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Lance Henrickson who portrayed Wally Schirra in “The Right Stuff” acted
master of ceremonies during the induction. He
introduced the hall of fame astronauts.
astronauts were introduced one by one and took their appointed seats on
stage. While this was happening we
noticed that the weather looked more and more ominous.
clouds were getting darker and darker. Things really looked bad. It was
difficult to concentrate on the induction speeches with the threatening
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