We’ve already established that my grandpa was a space buff, chronicling American missions on his calendar throughout the 1960s and ’70s.
There’s a Cape Canaveral-sized hole in his calendar in April 1970, when the Apollo 13 mission narrowly escaped becoming America’s first outer-space catastrophe.
Given that the fate of Apollo 13 made worldwide headlines, I am surprised that my grandfather made no written reference to it.
Maybe he was too absorbed in it to write anything down. Or maybe he didn’t write anything down in the middle of the ordeal because he was afraid of how it would end, and he didn’t look forward to having to record the worst-case.
In any event, the three men aboard Apollo 13 made it home safely.
And the next time Americans went into space, about 10 months later, my grandpa was back on board with them, so to speak.
Maybe space buffs can rattle off facts about the Apollo 14 mission off the tops of their heads.
But I don’t know much about it myself, except that the mission went more or less as planned, and America presumably breathed a big sigh of relief.
(There were a few potentially significant mechanical issues, but the astronauts and Mission Control managed to iron them out together; I don’t know to what extent they were publicized at the time.)
Wiki tells me that Apollo 14 was captained by Sixties space pioneer Alan Shepard, who became the only one of the original Mercury astronauts to walk (and play golf) on the moon.
I also learned that I’ve been in the same parking lot with a memento of the mission. Astronaut Stuart Roosa brought hundreds of seeds along, which sprouted back on Earth into what were called “Moon trees.”
One of the Moon trees was planted outside the police station of a little town in Massachusetts where I used to live. Presumably, barring lightning strikes or other catastrophe, it is there to this day.
Apollo 14 returned to Earth without incident on Feb. 9, and my grandpa was glad to record its arrival.
After the near-tragedy of the previous flight, it was — as the British say — a restoration of normal service.