Last weekend we all celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
And one of the most important behind-the-scenes people responsible for the success of the mission — indeed, the success of the entire U.S. space program — was an extraordinary aerospace engineer named Chris Kraft.
He was instrumental in establishing what we now know as “Mission Control.”
Kraft lived just long enough to mark that big anniversary last week. Yesterday, he passed away at age 95.
On July 20th, 1969, Buzz Aldrin was 39 years old, a few months older than Neil Armstrong, as the two men became the first human beings ever to set foor on the moon.
Circling above them in the Apollo 11 command module was Michael Collins, age 38.
Now, Neil Armstrong died seven year ago, but Aldrin and Collins — both approaching 90 now — are still here to mark the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most significant days in all iof human history.
I was privileged to meet and interview both men — Collins in 1988, Aldrin in 2000
Fifty years ago tonight, a young woman lost her life in a car accident in Massachusetts.
Her name was Mary Jo Kopechne. She was 28 years old. She was the passenger in a car that drove off a very narrow bridge and ended up in the water. She was trapped inside, and drowned.
The driver of the car: Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy.
The scene of the accident was a small island called Chappaquiddick.
Many believe the Chappaquiddick incident influenced Ted Kennedy’s decision not to run for President in 1972 and 1976,
In the late 1980s, journalist Leo Damore succeeded in breaking through a years-long wall of silence about Chappaquiddick, in a New York Times bestselling book called “Senatorial Privilege.” I talked with him in 1989.
This story ends in more tragedy.
Just six years after this interview, Damore was broke, depressed, about to be evicted from his home. He shot and killed himself in 1995 at the age of 65.
Sen. Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer in 2009, at the age of 77.
One of the best was the original “Famous Amos” cookies, created by Wally Amos, who, as a young man, used to bake cookies with his aunt. He took her recipe, added some unusual ingredients, and .. presto.
But nearly three decades ago, Amos lost his company — and was then actually sued over the use of his own name, when he tried to start a new cookie company.
Twenty years ago today, the nation was shocked by the tragic news of the death of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette, and his sister-in-law Lauren Bessette in the crash of their small plane in the waters off Martha’s Vineyard. He was 38 years old.
A dozen years later, a book came out, by JFK Jr’s onetime executive assistant, gatekeeper, and confidante, RoseMarie Terenzio. She told me in a 2012 interview that her five years working with Kennedy at “George” Magazine was like a fairy tale.
The former major league pitcher compiled a very respectable record playing for the Yankees, Pilots, Astros, and Braves.
But what really put Jim Bouton on the map, as it were, was his 1970 insider’s book called “Ball Four.” It was kind of outrageous at the time — probably awfullu tame by today’s standards — but it established Bouton as somebody more than just another jock.
I met him 25 years ago this week, after he’d published a baseball novel called “Strike Zone.”