Saturday, April 17, 2010

Alan Shepherd's Corvette

If you were a boy growing up in the 1960s you may have idolized NFL quarterbacks like Johnny Unitas or Joe Namath, or baseball players like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. But the true superstars of that era, and the heroes everyone admired, were astronauts.

Much has been said about the 1960s. Vietnam. Hippies. Woodstock. But to my eyes, one of the most remarkable achievements of human kind was landing a man on the moon. As Neil Armstrong said, it "was one small step for man, one giant step for mankind."

You'd have to go back to 1492 to find a similar achievement, when Columbus discovered the New World.

In that day, astronauts were larger than life but they were also true American heroes. They were looking up to. And they all drove Corvettes, which were also larger than life. I was reminded of that, when I saw Alan Shepherd's Corvette in the Apollo Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center. The simple fact is, I cannot look at a mid 1960s Stingray, or a 1968 model like Alan Shepherd's without thinking of the Apollo Program and the moon landings.

The Corvette lost its way for a time, but is back better than ever. Recently Jeremy Clarkson, who hosts "Top Gear" rated it as one of his favorite cars. High praise for someone who regards Americans as fat, stupid sheep.

NASA and the space program has also lost its way recently, with the end of the shuttle program and the demise of Project Orion. I can only hope they too return better than ever someday. And again, larger than life.

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