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Apollo & to Orbit
Apollo 7 heading for orbit.

Personal Moonshot

The announcer counted down, and with three seconds to go the Saturn 1B engines ignited. I was transfixed in front of our black and white TV, watching as the rocket slowly lifted off the pad, fire spraying from the bottom, steam billowing wildly away from the rocket.

“Commence liftoff, we have liftoff!”

The rocket was launching Wally Schirra, Walt Cunningham, and Don Eisele into space. This was the first manned spaceflight after a fierce launchpad fire had killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White in their Apollo 1 capsule. This mission was putting NASA back on track to landing men the moon before the decade was out. But I was only seven years old and knew nothing of all that — nothing of Mercury, Gemini, the sprawling effort across thousands of organizations and tens of thousands of people, the near unthinkable expense. No, all I saw was a massive rocket heading for space. It was wild and unbelievable and inspiring — and I loved every single second. That Apollo 7 launch is one of my oldest and strongest memories, and it planted in me seeds of both longing and terror; apparently buried within me for five decades before they finally germinated to make something new:

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