Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Apollo Astronauts Cernan and Schweikart at their best

Apollo Astronauts Cernan and Schweikart at their best

Spacefest—the June 9-12 event for space enthusiasts of any stripe (astronomy, manned and robotic space exploration, commercial space development, and space history enthusiast) — in Tucson, Arizona was amazing.

Never have I seen so many space fans, especially today when people may believe that we no longer have a United States space program. The International Space Station is in orbit, we do send astronauts up there. But their numbers are few, they must launch on a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan, and they receive little press coverage.

Hoot and I were glad to be around in the heyday of Shuttle flights in the 1980s and ‘90s. Spacefest allowed me to remember my own flights, as well as the flights of the men who had inspired me to become an astronaut: the men who had flown during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. I hope to pass on that sort of inspiration.

I was able to thank Mike Collins, author of Carrying the Fire, who flew on Apollo 11 with Armstrong and Aldrin for his help and encouragement when I was writing my own book. Imagine hugging Al Bean who walked on the moon on Apollo 12 and was in charge of the training of my astronaut class, Vance Brand who was on the Apollo-Soyuz docking mission which finished the Apollo flights and commanded my husband’s first Space Shuttle mission, and Jack Lousma who spent 60 days on Skylab, America’s first space station, in 1973. They were all sharp, gregarious, and as much fun as always.

Then there were the friends from my era of space. Not only was the famous, the infamous (according to

Future Astronaut Katia with Eileen Collins and me

Future Astronaut Katia with Eileen Collins and me

some) Hoot Gibson there, but Don Thomas and good friend Eileen Collins, the first female pilot selected and first to pilot and command a Shuttle flight.

There were those who sent us into space and brought us safely home, Flight Directors Glynn Lunney and Milt Heflin. And the two Space Station Ron Garan and Lisa Schott told of their adventures on long duration missions.

Most fun of all was to meet the children who will be the astronauts of the future. I’ve included pictures of two of them. Ten-year- old Katia lives in Canada, and her parents are from Russia. They speak Russian at home. Her English is perfect. She and Hoot had a conversation in Russian – and she tactfully corrected his mistakes. She already has some of the credentials she needs to make the trip to Mars, but will she fly as a pilot or a scientist? Eileen and I pointed out which was the best job.

Mars Astronaut Edward

Mars Astronaut Edward

Then there was young Edward who walked right up to my table and offered to give me his autograph on his official spaceman photo. At six years old, he is preparing for his future in space.

Perhaps, one day, I’ll see him with Katia on Mars or back at the Spacefest in 2036.

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  1. I agree that SF was a blast! I was privileged to sit next to Rhea at the Saturday banquet and had an wonderful time asking her questions and listening to her responses! The astronauts and mission control folks are so nice and easy to talk to. Rhea gave a great talk and participated in the space shuttle panel; those alone were worth the price of admission. Many thanks to Rhea and all the other attendees for making this event so memorable.

  2. I really enjoyed listening to your talk at space fest and also the space shuttle panel. It was striking to me how the makeup of the astronaut Corp is changing with a greater diversity of skill sets. I have really enjoyed reading your book

    Hope to have the opportunity in the future to hear you and Hoot talk again


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