New ex­hibit hon­ors NASA as­tro­nauts

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Mar­cia Dunn

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s ear­li­est and great­est as­tro­nauts gath­ered at Kennedy Space Cen­ter on Fri­day to mark the grand open­ing of a new space ex­hibit in which they’re the stars.

Thirty as­tro­nauts, three of them moon­walk­ers, took part in the out­door cer­e­mony, in­clud­ing two who had ex­tra rea­son to cel­e­brate. Fifty years ago Fri­day, Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin launched on Gemini 12, the last of that pro­gram.

With all the ex­cite­ment, Lovell for­got about Fri­day’s an­niver­sary — un­til re­minded by a re­porter. He said space­walks and ren­dezvous were re­fined on the two-man Gemini mis­sions and “opened up the road to Apollo.”

He later flew on Apollo — Apollo 8, the first manned flight to the moon, and the in­fa­mous, close-call Apollo 13.

Lovell’s Boy Scout hand­book is on dis­play at the ex­hibit’s new United States As­tro­naut Hall of Fame, along with his scout­ing sash and merit badges.

“I can’t be­lieve it’s 50 years” since the last Gemini flight, said Thomas Stafford of Gemini 6 and 9, Apollo 10 and the Apollo-Soyuz joint mis­sion be­tween the United States and Soviet Union.

Stafford’s Gemini 9 cap­sule is on dis­play. It’s mi­nus its hatches, he noted, but oth­er­wise still looks in good shape.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful ex­hibit,” Stafford, 86, said. “To me, it’s some­thing that’s in­spi­ra­tional mo­ti­va­tional for the young peo­ple.”

In all, 30 U.S. as­tro­nauts span­ning Gemini to shut­tle — two of them women — gath­ered at the Kennedy Space Cen­ter Vis­i­tor Com­plex for the morn­ing cer­e­mony, which paid high trib­ute to NASA’s golden age of the 1960s and 1970s.

Also present: the chil­dren of the late Alan Shep­ard, the first Amer­i­can in space, and the late Neil Arm­strong, the first man to step onto the moon.

AP

As­tro­nauts, from left, Vir­gil I. Gris­som, John Glenn and Alan Shep­ard are seen in 1961. A new ex­hibit called “He­roes and Le­gends” opened at the Kennedy Space Cen­ter in Florida.

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