NASA’s first astronauts star in exhibit a half-century after blasting off Astronaut Jim Lovell, center, speaks, accompanied by fellow astronaut Tom Stafford, right, during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. At left is the master of ceremonies, John Zarrella, formerly of CNN. (Kevin O'Connell/NASA via AP)
NASA’s first astronauts star in exhibit a half-century after blasting off
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NASA's earliest and greatest astronauts gathered at Kennedy Space Center on November 11. They marked the grand opening of a space exhibit in which they're the stars.
 
Thirty astronauts, three of them moonwalkers, took part in the outdoor ceremony. Two had extra reason to celebrate. On November 11, 1966, 50 years ago, Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin launched on Gemini 12, the last of that program.
 
With all the excitement, Lovell forgot about the anniversary - until reminded by a reporter. He said spacewalks and rendezvous were refined on the two-man Gemini missions and "opened up the road to Apollo." He later flew on Apollo - Apollo 8, the first manned flight to the moon, and the infamous, close-call Apollo 13.
 
Lovell's Boy Scout handbook is on display at the exhibit's new United States Astronaut Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame has been relocated from its original location six miles down the road. Also on display are Lovell's scouting sash and merit badges.
 
"I can't believe it's 50 years" since the last Gemini flight, said Thomas Stafford of Gemini 6 and 9, Apollo 10 and the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission. The latter was between the United States and Soviet Union.
 
Stafford's Gemini 9 capsule is on display. It's minus its hatches and some other items, he noted. Otherwise, it looks in good shape.
 
"It's a beautiful exhibit," Stafford, 86, told The Associated Press. "To me, it's something that's inspirational ... motivational for the young people."
 
In all, 30 U.S. astronauts spanning Gemini to shuttle - two of them women - gathered at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the ceremony. The event paid high tribute to NASA's golden age of the 1960s and 1970s.
 
Also present were the children of the late Alan Shepard. He was the first American in space. The children of the late Neil Armstrong attended. He was the first man to step onto the moon.
 
The retired astronauts - 25 of them Hall of Famers in matching navy blazers - joined a few hundred space program workers, military veterans, space buffs and tourists in the sunshine. They gathered outside the new visitor center exhibit. It is called "Heroes and Legends." Carved into fiberglass on the side of the building, a 30-foot-tall bas relief of the original Mercury 7 astronauts looked down on the crowd. Mercury 7's lone survivor is John Glenn. He is 95 and sent best wishes.
 
The event was deliberately held on Veterans Day. All of the early astronauts were military men, as were many of the later space shuttle fliers. The holiday enabled some schoolchildren to attend. A few dressed up in astronaut suits.
 
During the ceremony, the 88-year-old Lovell said he doesn't consider himself in the same company of his own hero, Charles Lindbergh. Ever humble like so many of his colleagues, Lovell said he just did what he thought was "proper and exciting and something for the country."
 
"I guess I'm just a lucky guy," he said, grinning. Some of the audience laughed, given his commander's role on Apollo 13.
 
Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden, 84, pointed out that the visitor complex showcases a Saturn V moon rocket and space shuttle Atlantis, not to mention all the new artifacts and relics "that I think people a thousand years from now are going to be happy to see."
 
"They're going to think back on the wonderful days that we've had here," Worden told the crowd. "And I guess in that same vein, that makes me a relic, too."
 
Apollo 16 moonwalker Charlie Duke, 81, offered this advice to everyone, particularly the young people.
 
"Dream big. Aim high."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the Gemini 9 spacecraft in the exhibit missing its hatches?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (20)
  • hayleel-ste
    11/18/2016 - 12:31 p.m.

    Honestly if I were an astronaut I would love my job. I always have wondered what it is like to have no gravity and to float around in space. But, then I feel like i would be scared to go off into space and get lost. or come back and not be able to walk or something.

  • samanthas-1-ste
    11/18/2016 - 01:06 p.m.

    It might have lost its hatches in the move to the exhibit. When I was younger, I dreamed of being an astronaut and going up into space. Even though I have different dreams, I would still think it would be cool to go up into space.

  • ethanp1-lin
    11/18/2016 - 02:37 p.m.

    I think it would be great to be an astronaut because only one out of 55000000 people get to be one also you get to be in space or in the I.S.S. more like both and i always wondered what it was like up there. One last thing is that if you are stationed at the I.S.S. you get to meet people from a lot of different countries but I don't want a space suit to malfunction or a hole in the I.S.S.

  • quintinj-orv
    11/21/2016 - 11:57 a.m.

    so many things to explore

  • 23smhurk
    11/28/2016 - 09:30 a.m.

    Because may be that the hatches disintegrated or came off this is very cool.

  • holdenj-orv
    11/29/2016 - 02:25 p.m.

    Note: The Apollo Missions, which took place between 1969 and 1972, happened during the Vietnam War.

  • jessej-loy
    11/30/2016 - 12:08 p.m.

    my name is jeff

  • sierrab-ste
    1/08/2017 - 10:21 p.m.

    These astronauts should have been recognized for their work a long time before this. It's good that people are finally giving them the credit they deserve.

  • samr-bla
    1/27/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    I have been to the national Kenney Space Center with my friend Alex and my dad last year. it was really hot but also very cool. The structures were huge the launching pad was super big Bigger than this school.

  • averym-orv
    3/21/2017 - 04:35 p.m.

    I would want to be an astronaut because you can see what no one else can. Having an exhibit about you too! That would be awesome :)

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