Thursday, March 5, 2009

Living history

Hi from Cairo - I'm still on the road and waiting to get back home to take a breather. I'm finding out all kinds of interesting stuff about what the Internet does when you're abroad. I spent half an hour this evening trying to force the Blogger sign-in screen to appear in English instead of Arabic!

I received this wonderful photo this morning from Mark Usciak, the official Spacefest photographer. I'm just blown away to see myself and my lovely bride in the presence of so much history. Half of the men who walked on the Moon are in this photo with us!

Front row: Scott Carpenter, Gene Cernan, Ed Mitchell, Jane and me, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, and an unusually glum-looking Dick Gordon. Back row: Al Bean, Hank Hartsfield, Vance Brand, Jack Lousma, Dave Scott, Jim McDivitt, Rusty Schweickart, Mike Collins, Rick Searfoss, and Charlie Walker. Too bad Bruce McCandless was running late, or he would have been in this photo with us too. This still feels too strange to be real!

This week is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 9 mission, including the first flight of the Lunar Module. Mission Commander Jim McDivitt was making his second (and last) space flight; he would go on to become the Apollo Program Manager. Command Module Pilot Dave Scott was also on his second mission, and he would later command the Apollo 15 lunar landing mission. Lunar Module Pilot Rusty Schweickart was on his first and only flight. Rusty was one of the first astronauts to get space motion sickness, which hampered his functioning for several days and caused the delay of a planned EVA.

The rumor was that Rusty was grounded after the mission because of his space sickness. At the time, we knew very little about the syndrome, though, and it was later discovered that most astronauts get it to some degree or another. The Mercury and Gemini missions did not have the problem because the astronauts remained confined in their seats for most of the mission. It was only with the ability to move about the more spacious Apollo capsules that astronauts became succeptible to this form of motion sickness.