Friday, May 6, 2011

Man in space

From the archives of Life magazine, posted on the Fox News Web site and brought to my attention via History News Network: cool, in many cases previously-unseen photographs of Alan Shepard and the early Apollo astronauts, commemorating Shepard's first American manned space flight 50 years ago yesterday (May 5, 1961). Here's one of my favorites, but all 8 are available here and there are several gems (the first one in the slide show is actually the least interesting, so keep clicking):

The object Shepard is holding in his right hand is a portable air conditioner, used to cool his pressure suit before he entered his (ridiculously claustrophobic-looking) capsule. I am struck by how closely these actual pressure suits resemble a Disney-fied "Tomorrowland" version of space travel... note, for example, the following image, taken by the Los Angeles Times in 1959 of then-Vice President Richard Nixon chatting with a "spaceman and spacegirl" [why not "spacewoman?"]:

Shepard's suit fits more snugly and he doesn't have the nifty radio receiver wire on top of his helmet, but they certainly got the silver part correct. In conclusion, a Shepard quotation included with the above Life photo:

"You should have courage and the right blood pressure [if you want to succeed as an astronaut.] And four legs ... You know, they really wanted to send a dog, but they decided that would be too cruel."

Photo credit for LA Times photo: uclalat_1429_b390_117469, UCLA Los Angeles Times Photo Digitization Project, [I had the honor of selecting this particular image while working for the project. Such are my grand contributions to our intellectual culture.]

No comments: