We All Had Stars in Our Eyes

Painting Completed October 2011
17 x 13 inches, Textured Acrylic With Moondust On Aircraft Plywood

Every trip to the moon has to start someplace, and for me it started at 09:34 EST on May the 5th of 1961. I was a pilot at the Naval Air Test Center in Pawtuxent River, Maryland, in the ready room briefing for a test flight in one of the Navy's newest airplanes. I was one happy human because i thought I had, for me, the best job in the whole wide world.

Most of my fellow pilots were watching television. On the screen a guy I had never heard of, Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, was getting ready to ride a rocket. As I watched his brief 15 minute and 28 second flight, I realized he had gone higher than I had ever been, faster than I had ever gone, and perhaps even more important, made more noise doing it. Maybe that guy had the best job in the world and I wanted one like it.

Well, on my second try I got the job. In October of 1963 I reported to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, eager to begin training to fly to the Moon. But like most new jobs, I quickly found out, there was good news, and there was bad news.

First, the bad news:
As I came to know my fellow astronauts, engineers and scientist, I began to become concerned. Some were a little smarter than me, a few a little less smart than me, but most were just like me, and that was scary. I knew I had never accomplished an impossible dream and did not know how to even begin intelligently. I was just a U.S. Navy Pilot.

At the time, some of the technology we would need did not even exist. We had a few primitive computers at the Manned Spacecraft Center, but they could not come close to processing sufficient data fast enough to make the real-time decisions that would have to be made to safely fly to the Moon and return to Earth. A strong tough material to make the helmet visors so we could see clearly to explore the moon did not exist. No transparent material anywhere could withstand the temperature changes that would be experienced on the Moon and not crack and shatter.

But now the good news:
The astronauts, engineers and scientists I worked with day after day did not believe we had to be extra smart or extra gifted to do something great. No matter what our level of achievement was in the past, we could find a way, working together as a team, to be extraordinary in the future.

History shows that we were "Right On." I also believe that this is true for all of us humans who read this today. We just have to get some stars in our eyes.