The US space program was launched, so to speak, in 1959, when the first seven mercury astronauts were named.
These pioneers laid the groundwork for the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle missions that would follow in coming years and decades.
Among those seven was a 36-year-old test pilot named Wally Schirra.
Over the next few years he would become a household name, along with those like John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Alan Shepard.
Finally, in 1988, Schirra wrote his autobiography. And that’s when I had a chance to meet him
So here now, from 1988, astronaut Wally Schirra/
Wally Schirra died in 2007. He was 84.
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Fifty-two years ago this week the world watched in fascination, as Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to set foot on the surface of the moon.
As they were planting their footprints on the moon, orbiting above it was the third member of the history-making crew, Michael Collins.
After all, someone had to stay in the car with the motor running while Armstrong and Aldrin did their thing.
More than 20 years later, I met and interviewed Mike Collins. Twice, in fact. The interview you’re going to here was the second one we did, about a book he wrote called Missino to Mars
So here now, from 1990, astronaut Michael Collins…
Michael Collins died this past April. He was 90.
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Look at the calendar. Tomorrow’s date is 4321. That inspired me to choose today’s interview, with the man who was commander of the Apollo 13 mission, which took place 51 years ago this month.
Jim Lovell was the commander of the three-man crew, whose mission was to land on the Moon. But just two days into the mission, something went terribly wrong.
Tom Hanks, who played Jim Lovell in the movie Apollo 13, uttered the words that have become a catchphrase. But in the moment when level actually said those words, he and his crew mates were dangerously close to death.
In 1994, Jim Lovell co-authored a book about the Apollo 13 mission, and that’s when I met him.
So here now, from 1994, Jim Lovell:
Lovell celebrated his 93rd birthay last week.
Tomorrow is January 28, and if you are old enough, you undoubtedly have a clear memory of exactly where you were 35 years agp, on January 28, 1986.
That was the day of that horrible tragedy, the explosion of Space Shuttle Challenger.
Among the crew members was teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, who had won a nationwide competition to become the first teacher in space.
Watching the liftoff in person that day was Christa McAuliffe’s mother, Grace George Corrigan.
A few years later, Corrigan wrote a book about her daughter, and that’s when I met her.
So here now, from 1993, Grace George Corrigan.
Christa’s father died in 1990,
Grce George Corrigan died in 2018 at athe age of 94.
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On July 20th, 1969, Buzz Aldrin was 39 years old, as he and Neil Armstrong became the first two human beings ever to set foor on the surface of the moon.
Fifty-one years sounds like a long time, but to those of us who remember watching it unfold live on TV, it’s almost like it was yesterday.
To untold millions of people all over the world, Buzz Aldrin, to this day, remains a larger-than-life hero. That’s why, when I met him in 2000, I was more than just a bit starstruck.
Aldrin had written his second novel, a fictional story of a disaster aboard a space shuttle. And, as you’ll hear, he was very focused on the future of space travel, not his past.
So here now, from 2000, Buzz Aldrin.
Buzz Aldrin is 90 now. He lives in Satellite Beach, Florida.