SHARED STORIES: Reflections on the Space Age

Kay Halsey was born 95 years ago in Atlanta in 1920, where her father was a minister. The arc of her life spans a time from Model-T Fords to space travel. As she reflects on the changes she has seen during her lifetime, Kay is always looking forward. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Kathleen Halsey

A few years ago our country celebrated the ending of our space program started by President Kennedy. His idea was to put a man on the moon. The final flight of the space ship Endeavour flew over my house. I heard it coming and ran out to see it. When I went into my house the TV was showing people who worked in Palmdale on the Endeavour with tears in their eyes.

I thought back to my childhood in 1927 when I would go up a hill behind my house and look at the dark sky with a bright shining moon and thousands of twinkling stars. There were not many street lights then to block out the vision to the stars.

I sang this Mother Goose rhyme: I see the moon and the moon sees me/The moon sees somebody I want to see/God bless the moon and God bless me/and God bless the one I want to see.

Many things were being discovered in the 20’s. Instead of carriages and wagons drawn by horses, Henry Ford and others were perfecting the automobile. Our lighter-than-air vehicles were being experimented with and tested on the beach in Long Beach and in North Carolina.  Many men were killed when their biplanes crashed. Charles A. Lindberg, however, after many crashes was heard on shortwave radio on his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris in May 1927. The South Pole was being explored and recorded by shortwave radio by Admiral Byrd. He used ships and planes.

I was moved deeply when on a visit to Maui I took a long automobile trip along the coast to Hana, a native Hawaiian village. On the coast was a small stone church with Lindbergh’s grave. The epitaph on his grave was from Psalm 139:  “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me.”  His victory had turned tragic when a kidnapper took and killed his young son for ransom. Lindbergh and his family had fled to a small island off the coast of France. Then he retreated to Maui.

Our scientists continued to work on air travel, spurred by WWII. Experiments on TV in 1940 materialized so that we made the first space capsule in Downey. In 1969 Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, “One giant step for mankind,” I heard as I was watching the event on TV with my father who was born in 1886. 

When I was teaching in the 1960’s and 70’s, NASA produced great brochures about space development that I displayed on the bulletin boards.  It was an opportunity to open the eyes and minds of a new generation of children who did not understand the involved steps of space travel and all the knowledge that we had gained about our universe.

The development of the rockets Atlantis, Discovery, and Challenger was done in Downey, El Segundo, Long Beach and San Diego.  Even seven flights set down in our Edwards Air Force Base.  No wonder the creators of the Endeavor had tears in their eyes.  Thousands of hours of work by many people made Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon a reality.  It was a long time since man believed that the world was flat until a man actually landed on the moon.

My Mother Goose prayer about “the one I want to see” was a reality made by the dreams and work of many men.  We have sent rockets to Pluto recently and learned many things about our universe.  What wonders have been wrought by the work of many men, not only in the US but around the world?