On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the moon within ten years.
” I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. . . .”
I was in the third grade, the President was an Irish Catholic form Massachusetts and so was I (heck my Grandfather came from Ireland!). I can’t express to you how special he was to me and how excited I was to hear those words! I read everything I could about the planets and about space, I can remember making a space capsule out of a cardboard box. I drew a circle for a window and punched wholes in the window for stars. I eventually got a telescope for Christmas, I was able to subscribed to Harvard’s Sky and Telescope Magazine, I spent hours in the library reading about the planets.
By the time I reached the fifth grade my class was allowed to do a science project and mine was to build the planet Jupiter. I can remember taking a balloon covering it with cheese cloth and putting plaster of paris all over the sphere. I then painted it and brought it to school for my science presentation. I amazed myself, as I won first place!
By the time the sixth grade science fair came around, I was ready! My project this time was to use shallow boxes, sand, stones, plaster of paris and paint to produce the surfaces of Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Moon, and Pluto. I was busy all year in building and /or repairing the small surfaces. Remember, this was before satellites took close up pictures of the planets. All I had to go on were telescopic pictures and artist renditions of the planets. I made a total of nine surfaces and they were beautiful! I knew everything a 6th grader could know about the Solar System (at that time) and I discussed surface structures and theories about how they were formed. I won the Science fair that year and took awards every year after that, doing variations on the theme.
During those years I wanted to be an Astronomer. As time went on I watched the Kennedy-like Captain Kirk take us to “. . .where no man has gone before.” And I believed it a certainty that we would be sailing past Jupiter by the time I was fifty. The dream fell apart when the Moon Projects ended and I found there was no major in Astronomy at any State College. For the rest of my life I have lived, like everyone else, watching space from afar. No more lunar landings, no adventures to Mars. But I remember a time when America was all about adventure, a time when even a child could hold a man’s dream in the palm of his hand.