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Apollo & to Orbit
Apollo 7 heading for orbit.

Personal Moonshot

I was watching black and white TV, a rocket slowly rising off the pad, fire blasting from its engines.

“Commence liftoff, we have liftoff.”

Apollo 7 was putting NASA back on track to landing men on the moon after the disastrous launchpad fire that had killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White. The capsule sitting on top of the Saturn 1B booster, which Wally Schirra had wanted to name Phoenix, was a significant refactor of the command module hardware. The Apollo program itself had been overhauled and improved in the face of cancellation. I was only seven years old and knew nothing of that or of projects Mercury and Gemini, the sprawling effort across thousands of organizations and tens of thousands of people, the near unthinkable expense. All I saw was a massive rocket heading for space. It was wild and unbelievable and inspiring — and I loved every single second. The Apollo 7 launch is one of my oldest and strongest memories. The space program behind it inspired my interest in science, aviation, and spaceflight. I’ve wandered more than one path through life, but the effect of closely following the successful effort to land men on the moon stuck permanently:

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