I know what I’m going to be when I grew up–an astronaut!
And not just any astronaut, either. I’m going to be the world’s first artist-astronaut! I’m going to be the only person in the history of the world to draw pictures from outer space.
An American has orbited the earth.
John Glenn is America’s hero.
But the Russians had already beaten us to it. Again. First Sputnik, now this.
Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space AND the first to orbit the earth in Vostok 1. They shot him into orbit on a huge rocket on April 12, 1961.
It was yet another big embarrassment for the United States. President Kennedy had just been inaugurated, and it was like the Russians were saying, “Hah! What are you going to do about THIS?”
Three weeks later, on May 5, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he was launched on a suborbital flight in the Mercury capsule, named Freedom 7.
For fifteen whole minutes, in which he barely went out of the atmosphere. Big deal. The Russians had already orbited the earth.
Then in July, Gus Grissom made another, slightly longer, sub-orbital flight.
In August, a Russian named Gherman Titov orbited the earth in Vostok 2 for an entire day! What were we waiting for? The Russians were getting farther and farther ahead of us.
Then, finally, on February 20, 1962, John Glenn made a full orbit of the earth in Friendship 7. It was really scary, because for a time Mission Control was afraid that the heat shield might have come off and that he would be burned him to a crisp on re-entry.
That would have been a disaster for the American space program. Fortunately, it was a false alarm and he landed safely. Whew! America was officially in space! Game on!
Many more fights by both Russians and Americans followed.
Then in September, President Kennedy vowed that America would go to the moon before the end of the decade.
To the moon! Not just circling the earth a little more than 100 miles up, but to the moon, 240,000 miles away! An American would land on another world.
Take that, Russia!
And after that, who knows? Mars, Venus, Jupiter, another solar system, another galaxy!
It will probably take us a few years to get to all those places. By then I expect to be in command of an inter-galactic spaceship. Maybe I’ll be the one to discover alien life!
Wait till you see those drawings!