In March of 1964, Dick Gordon first set foot in Morehead Planetarium for training, coming back six other times over the next four years. He worked with trainers in Morehead’s dome and classrooms, learning how to align his spacecraft with the stars. This training aided him in piloting Gemini 11 and eventually circling the Moon as Command Module Pilot on Apollo 12.
The fourth manned craft to go to the Moon and only the second to land, Apollo 12 was struck twice by lightning shortly after blast-off. Systems went haywire. Alan Bean heard ground control ask them to “set SCE to AUX” and he did so (thereby resetting critical systems). Before leaving orbit, however, it was left to Dick Gordon to realign the spacecraft, a task he accomplished using his Morehead training related to star identification.
Losing this American hero is especially sad for me. Peace to all who knew him and love to his family.
NPR Article about Dick Gordon
Todd Boyette (above, far right) is Director of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Today, he sent me a memorandum of understanding regarding my writing projects.
It may not sound particularly exciting, but what it says is this: I have his, and MPSC’s, full support on my research and writing projects. The support even includes funding for travel to meet with astronauts, astronaut trainers, full access to all archives, and assistance from any and all staff in pursuit of my efforts.
I’m taking that day off to spend with Captain Jim Lovell. I’ll have lunch with him, attend his press conference, attend his VIP meet & greet, then attend his lecture.
Guess I’m watching Apollo 13 with the family tomorrow night.
Yesterday, I spent time with Jim Horn, the man who was hired to maintain the Zeiss VI planetarium star projector you see above. (This is a photo I took in 1994 in the Morehead Planetarium star theater.) Jim shared with me dozens of slides, pictures, and artifacts he’d been given or that were trash-bound but that he rescued during his 1969 to 2001 tenure at Morehead. As I look over the images of the star projector, the building, employees, and astronauts, I’m blown away by the fact that Chapel Hill was every bit a NASA training hub as existed in the sixties and seventies.
Today, I’ll have lunch with Richard McColman, the head of the GSK Fulldome Theater (as the star theater is now called since its 2010 modernization). Richard’s tenure of 1992 to present has involved upgrading the theater from mechanical to digital. Morehead continues to be a world class facility in part due to Richard’s efforts, those dovetailing perfectly in with Jim Horn’s perpetual upgrades and improvements of the past.
Tomorrow, I’ll get a chance to work with Todd Boyette, the Director of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, to further map out the two Morehead book projects I am pursuing with his blessing.
As my research deepens, I’ll put tidbits here for those who are hungry to know about astronaut training at Morehead and stories, like those of under-the-stars marriage proposals or astronauts coming to dinner.