NASA’s first astronauts star in exhibit a half-century after blasting off
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: the children of the late Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and the late Neil Armstrong, 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, right outside the new visitor center exhibit, 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, John Glenn, 95, 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, as 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 in the audience and watching on NASA TV.
"Dream big, aim high."

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

  • jcharles-dav
    11/17/2016 - 12:51 p.m.

    In response to NASA’s first astronauts star in exhibit a half-century after blasting off I think its nice that the they met up. I think that NASA was right by doing this. These men have made it to space and they can finally meet up. It will also help more men get into the hall of fame that it talked about. So NASA was smart by doing this.

  • devins1-moo
    11/17/2016 - 02:11 p.m.

    I liked it I always thought space was entrusting.I think people should go back up to the moon. They didn't know they it was missing.

  • bchase-dav
    11/17/2016 - 07:15 p.m.

    In response to "NASA’s first astronauts star in exhibit a half-century after blasting off," I agree that it is amazing that its been 50 years since these astronauts have been launched into space. One reason I agree is that 30 people were on the mission. Another reason is that 3 of them were moon-walkers(Not Michael Jackson). It says in the article "3 of them were moon-walkers". A third reason is 3 of them were women, so no feminists will get triggered. If there were only males, angry feminists would call this mission sexist. Even though its "Just a space mission", I think that this mission is amazing.

  • ezequield-ver
    11/22/2016 - 10:20 a.m.

    The aircraft could've had a hard and harsh landing that made it so parts from the Gemini feel off.

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