Far and away the number one question I am asked as the daughter of an Astronaut is “Were you scared when your father walked on the moon?”
The answer is “no, not at all.”
Certainly I had every reason to be. On November 14, 1969, from Launchpad 39A’s closest viewing area (a full 3 miles away) I watched the flames burst out of Apollo 12’s Saturn V, cover the ground beneath it, and proceed to incinerate everything in their path. I heard the deafening roar of the explosion as the oxygen/rocket propellant mixture ignited and fired the 6.7 million pounds of rocket ship and its cargo out of earth’s atmosphere. The viewing stands rattled and the lake water rippled in front of me. Thirty-seven seconds later a loud crack rang out as a bolt of lightning followed the rapidly accelerating rocket’s contrail back to the launchpad. Why wasn’t I scared?
Four days later, back home in Nassau Bay, TX, I watched my father step down on the moon, 228,863 miles away. Only 3 other humans had traveled that far from earth. A hostile environment that no man could survive without a perfectly functioning portable spaceship. I remember my Papa Bean believed it was the most dangerous time in the mission. He paced the floor when Dad was out of the LM. Why wasn’t I scared?
The obvious answer, I was young, only 6 years old when my father walked on the moon, 10 years old when he served 59 days on the Skylab space station. But I believe my lack of fear was more than a child’s blissful ignorance. I believe I was brave because of the Bean family values and the courageous culture of the tight-knit community in which we lived.
At the heart of our home, we were a Navy family. My father was a United States Naval Officer, an American Astronaut. His duty was to serve our country. His Cold War mission was to land a man on the moon before the Russians, and my mother, my brother and I supported him.
Our neighbors and our friends shared this call to duty. For 6 years, engineers, scientists, doctors, and astronauts tested and trained. Their forethought, preparedness, and discipline, replaced the fear in my family’s heart with confidence.
Now much older and wiser, I ask myself if I would fear, if like my father, my son or daughter blasted off into space. The answer is still “no”.
Because the brave brotherhood of space exploration flies on. I see it in their commitment to the International Space Station, the mission to Mars, and the development of the James Webb Space Telescope. With greater technical challenges and much less public support than their Apollo moon mission forebears, today’s astronautical professionals still courageously venture forth to discover the unknowns of the universe.
* The two photos in Blog Post #5 are Alan Bean original paintings. As the only artist to explore another world, Dad paints the story of Apollo, the beginning of mankind’s unending quest to explore the cosmos. If you hover over the image, you can read the stories written by Alan Bean that accompany each painting. To see the entire collection of Alan Bean’s work, visit http://www.alanbeangallery.com.