A few years ago I took
my son to the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I was
hoping to ignite in him some of the awe and wonder I had felt as a
child, growing up in the space age. He had seen Apollo 13 , and
was excited to sit in the capsule once graced by Tom Hanks. But other than that, the rest
of the trip didn't do much for him. He'd seen bigger rockets in Star Wars.
But for me, the day brought back the amazement I felt at
his age, sitting bleary- eyed in front of the TV as a man walked on the
moon. When our tour paused
at the Redstone rocket testing site, our guide described how Alan
Shepard and the other
Mercury astronauts watched the tests from inside a tipped-over railroad
car. Seems there
wasn't enough money to build a proper observation area, since the
rockets kept blowing up.
Alan Shepard watched
those firecrackers explode, and he still strapped his skinny body into
one and became the first American in space. 10 years later,
at the age of 48, he did it again, becoming one of only a dozen men to
walk on the moon.
"Hero" is defined as a person of great strength, courage and daring.
never shined brighter than when it went to the stars. Thank you, Alan
Shepard - hero, for
starting our journey.
©1998 James Mann
Originally appeared in Ink19