Astronauts reminisce and look to nation’s aeronautic future

August 27, 2012

Astronauts reminisce and look to nation’s aeronautic future

LovellBy Nancy Thorner –

Everyone 35 years or older will surely remember Neil Armstrong as the first person to set foot on the moon on July 10,1969.  Most likely they will also remember where they were on that monumental day when they watched with pride as America conquered space travel to become the first nation with the know-how to reach the moon.  It was an accomplishment that this nation owned at the time.

In short order Neil Armstrong became a household name and a great hero of the 20th century.  Armstrong’s statement uttered at the time he set foot on the moon has been carved in stone and is now quoted across the world, “That’s one small step for man: one giant leap for mankind.”

Hopefully Armstrong’s quoted phase is still being taught to school children, for his outstanding achievement and the dedication, fortitude and training necessary to accomplish his heroic feat must be passed on to future generations who must continue to strive to break new frontiers where man has never traveled before.

This spirit has always been with the American people.  It accounts for the many  achievements and advancements made since our nation was founded and which define the American people and this nation as unique.  May this spirit continue to spur Americans onward to accomplish even greater things.

This is especially important, as with the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 20, 2011, the 30-year NASA space shuttle program came to an end.

With my home in Lake Bluff, the celebrity status of another former astronaut, James Lovell, Jr., is especially well know in the surrounding area and along the Northshore.  The Village of Lake Bluff is directly north of Lake Forest.  A good place to dine is at Lovells, a full service restaurant in the heart of Lake Forest, which James Lovell and his family opened up in 1999. On display are items that relate to Lovell’s astronaut days.

It was therefore only natural when attending Heartland’s 7th International Conference on Climate Change from May 21 to 23 of this year in Chicago, that I would approach former employees of NASA featured in one of many panel discussions to inquire if any of them were acquainted with Lake Forest’s James Lovell, Jr.

I hit the jack pot, for among them was former NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham. Walter Cunningham not only knew James Lovell, but he had trained with Lovell for many years.  Walter Cunningham was of Apollo 7 fame.   His Apollo 7 mission took place on October 11, 1968.  James Lovell’s Apollo 8 mission followed in close proximity to Cunningham’s Apollo 8 mission on December 27, 1968.

Inquiring of Cunningham why Lovell wasn’t participating with Cunningham and the other three NASA employees in their on-going letter writing campaign (They are asking NASA Administrator, Charles Bolden, Jr., to end spreading information with outlandish global warming conclusions.), Cunningham replied: “Jim is likely involved in other things, and he’s also getting old.”

Perhaps Lake Forest’s celebrity and former NASA astronaut, Jim Lovell, Jr., needs a nudge to become involved himself in the efforts of his fellow NASA compatriots to confront the exaggerations, opportunism, and myths about global warming that are all too pervasively altering the shape of our lives?

Jim Lovell, Jr., however, didn’t need a nudge to reminisce about his friend, Neil Armstrong.

Following the death of Neil Armstrong this past Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio, at 82, Daniel I. Dorfman, a reporter for PATCH,  interviewed James Lovell, Jr. and posted the following article on PATCH Lake Forest on Sunday, August 26.


Lovell Reflects on Death of Friend Neil Armstrong

“When Neil Armstrong became first person to walk on moon, Lake Forest resident was his backup. They were friends for 50 years.

Some of the most profound thoughts on the death of Neil Armstrong at 82 Saturday, the first person to set foot on the moon, came from his colleague and friend of 50 years, James Lovell of Lake

“He is the epitome of what America stands for,” Lovell said Saturday of Armstrong, as people offered accolades from The White House, NASA, Armstrong’s alma mater of Purdue and elsewhere.

Lovell was home in Lake Forest when he got the word his close friend of 50 years and the man known worldwide for being the first to step foot on the moon in July, 1969, had died.

Lovell had seen Armstrong only about a month and a half ago at Armstrong’s home in Ohio where they had lunch together.  It was the final meeting of the two men whose friendship had formed in the 1960s as they were part of the second group of American Astronauts in the Gemini program, the predecessor to Project Apollo, which was charged with a moon landing.  Lovell was in fact, Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11, that most famous of all space missions. “I always kidded him that I was trying to break his legs so I could fly the flight but he was too healthy,” Lovell joked on Saturday.


Moon Landing Was Complete American Teamwork

Trying to assess Armstrong’s legacy starts with the ten words he spoke over 43 years ago as Armstrong stepped off the ladder of his space ship onto the moon’s surface and is now part of American lexicon, but Lovell looks back at his old friend another way.

“His legacy is an example if we want to accomplish a project as the American people that we must work together as a team with good leadership and be able to do that. The Apollo program is an example of what you can do if you have the will and given the authority to do something.

“It was hundreds of companies working together to accomplish a single goal. We could do that today with some of the major projects that we always seem to have controversy about and never get anyplace.”

Lovell was also asked to try and rank Armstrong’s place in U.S. history.

“What else happened in the 20th Century?” Lovell asked. “We’ve had several wars of course. We had a lot of technical achievements but landing on the moon is an accomplishment of what you can accomplish if you put your mind it.”


Armstrong Was There For Lovell Family in Time of Nee

As for his aborted moon mission of Apollo 13, Lovell said a picture that remains in his study is that of Armstrong watching the splashdown of the astronauts with the Lovell family.

“He was very supportive,” Lovell recalled of the aftermath of the mission that nearly ended in catastrophe.

Lovell and Armstrong subsequently sat down and discussed what happened and eventually discovered the cause of the accident.

After both men left the space program, Armstrong was rarely seen in public, forgoing what likely would have been millions of dollars in marketing opportunities, instead choosing to avoid the limelight.

“He was kind of quiet, but when he spoke, people listened,” Lovell said. “He always felt that his going to the moon was nothing unusual and that anyone of us could do that and he was just doing his job. He didn’t want to exploit his being the first on the moon. He just wanted to be part of the team that helped get him to the moon and get the other people to the moon.”

In recent years, both men were concerned about the NASA budget as the Space Shuttle program came to an end. “He was saddened that we seem to be taking a different direction in our space activities,” Lovell said.


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