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The good news

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

I came across this anecdote reading Martha Ackmann’s The Mercury Thirteen. In the late fiftees, NASA was struggling to master the art of building safe rockets. Rocket after rocket blew up.

In the spring of 1959, when the seven astronaut candidates were first brought to watch an Atlas rocket lift off, the rocket blew up on the launch pad. After a few minutes of silence as the men watched debris shower down over the ocean, Alan Shepard muttered to his compatriots: “well, I’m glad they got that out of the way.”

Two years later, when Shepard became the first American in space, NASA’s brass had three speaches prepared… one for success, one for ocean bailout and one for Shepard’s annihilation.

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