Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dear God...

Please don't let me fuck this up:

48 years ago today, Alan Shepard became the first American to officially enter space, as spam in a can (it is likely that both Scott Crossfield, Chuck Yeager, and several other test pilots, had unofficially done so several times from the early 50s onward in various x planes).

I had the good fortune to meet Alan Shepard; along with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, and Gene Cernan (on separate occasions); five of the twelve men who have walked on the moon. We lost him in 1998, and there are only 9 of them left (a sad statement if there ever was one, but that's another story entirely).

Shepard had a wry way with words, and a somewhat twisted sense of humor; perhaps common to his New England upbringing.

While sitting and waiting to blast off, Shepard reportedly intoned what has now become the universal prayer of pilots, "the Shepards prayer": "Dear God, please don't let me fuck this up"... though he later claimed that he didn't say that... that he only wished he was that funny.

After several hours sitting waiting in the capsule on the top of that converted intercontinental ballistic missile, Shepard had to urinate urgently. As Shepards flight was only intended to be a few minutes long, no provision had been made for a relief tube. Shepard eventually solved his uh... problem... by urinating in his flight suit.

On returning to earth, he was asked what he was thinking about while he was waiting to blast off. His response was perhaps even more of a classic: "The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder."

THAT, was Rear Admiral Alan Shepard; second man in space, first American in space, first man to crack a joke in space (as far as we know), and the fifth man to walk on the moon.

Personally, I think he said it.