My Close Encounters With American Astronauts by Phil Konstantin

For most of my life, I have been a space travel enthusiast. As a youngster, I kept scrapbooks of all of the spaceflights. Even though I was fairly young, I remember the Mercury flights. My interest increased as I got older. Like most people alive at the time, I know exactly where I was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. My interest in the space program eventually led to me working at NASA in Houston. For much of that time, I helped to run the computers in the Real Time Computer Complex (RTCC) (during Apollo 16, 17 & all of the Skylab missions). These were the computers that ran the flights. I was 19 when I started working there. In fact, I was one of the youngest people there for a while. I was just a lowly computer operator, but I would occasionally get to rub elbows with some of the bigwigs because I had to go into different parts of the operation center to do some minor activities with remote computer operations.


My ID when I worked at NASA. This was taken in 1972.

After I left NASA in 1975, I met other astronauts as I wrote magazine articles about NASA and space exploration. In 2005, I started working as a reporter at KUSI-TV in San Diego. I have met many more astronauts while working there.

Below I have lots of photos and videos of these highly trained and motivated folks.


Photos:




Shuttle STS-100 astronauts entering their ground transportation van.
The man with the goatee is Umberto Guidoni. Immediately behind him is Kent Rominger. Facing you with his arm up waving is Scott Parazynski. The head next to Scott's is John L. Phillips. Next to him is Chris Hadfield. Entering the van are Yuri Lonchakov and Jeffrey Ashby. I took this photo at Cape Canaveral in 2001.


Wally Schirra (Mercury 8, Gemini 6 & Apollo 7) and me


Scott Carpenter and me (Mercury program) in 2002.


Scott Carpenter (Mercury program). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Buzz Aldrin (Gemini 12 & Apollo 11) and me in 1996.


Buzz Aldrin and me. This was taken in 2009. We had a short chat after he finished a lecture. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Tom Stafford (Gemini 6, Apollo 10 & Apollo-Soyuz) and me in 2002.


Sally Ride (STS-7 & STS-41G) and me. This was taken in 2006.


Tracy Caldwell (STS-118) and me. This was taken in 2009.


Dick Covey (STS-51, 26, 38 and 61). He was CapCom on the fatal Challenger flight. This was taken in the 1990s at the Reuben Fleet Science Center in San Diego.


Michael Collins (Gemini 10 & Apollo 11) and me. This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Gene Cernan (Gemini 9, Apollo 10 & Apollo 17) and me. This was taken in 2009. I ran computers at NASA during Apollo 17. I have met Gene a couple of times. I think he is the best spoken of all the Mercury-Apollo astronauts. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Gene Cernan and me talking. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Gene Cernan & Charlie Duke paling around. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jack Lousma on the left, as I do an interview with him in 2009. Tom Zizzi is the videographer. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jack Lousma with Gene Cernan.



Charlie Duke (Apollo 16) and me. This was taken in 2009. Even though he has walked on the moon, he is probably best known for something he said. He was the person talking to Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin as they landed on the moon. First, Neil said, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Then Charlie said: "Roger, Twank...Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue here. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot!" I ran computers during his Apollo 16 flight. I now have a Robbins Apollo medallion from his collection. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Charlie Duke and me with the Robbins medallion I got from his collection. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Charlie Duke autographing some "astronaut ice cream." Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Charlie Duke explaining to me he has an Extra Big, Big Bertha driver. . Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jim McDivitt (Gemini 4 & Apollo 9) and me. This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jim McDivitt. This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Dave Scott (Gemini 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 15). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Alan Bean (Apollo 12 & Skylab 3). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Richard Gordon (Gemini 11 & Apollo 12). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Vance Brand (Apollo Soyuz & Shuttle 5,41 & 35). This was taken in 2009. I ran computers at NASA during the Apollo-Soyuz flight. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Bruce McCandless (Shuttles 41 & 31). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9). This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jack Lousma (Skylab 3 & Shuttle 3). This was taken in 2009. I ran computers during his Skylab mission. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jack Lousma. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jack Lousma and me. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Jack Lousma hitting the golfball. This was taken in 2009. That's me in the light blue shirt. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Al Crews (Col., ret.) attended the USAF astronaut school, the Aerospace Research Pilots School. Twice he was in the final selections for astronaut training with NASA, but was diverted to the Dyna-Soar & Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) USAF programs. This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



I made Al laugh. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.



Al Crews and me. This was taken in 2009. Click on this picture to see a larger version of it.






Videos:



While they were at a golf tournament associated with this event in 2009, I interviewed Charlie Duke, Jack Lousma, Jim McDivitt, Gene Cernan, and Al Crews for my televsion station. They are all still pretty sharp guys. The broadcast report is below, along with the raw footage before it was edited.


Click here to see the above videoas an AVI file in case it does not automatically pop up.

Click here to see a video of a news story on Apollo 11's 40th anniversary.

Click here to see a video of an interview of Apollo 11's 40th anniversary with Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke and Alan Bean


 



Related Links:



Click here to see a magazine article I wrote about Wally Schirra in 1993.

Click here to see photos of my Robbins Medallions collection

Click here to go to my SPACE page


Click here to go to my Kennedy Space Center - Shuttle Launch page


"Additional photos I took at NASA in 1994 & 2001.


Article I wrote about Wally Schirra

My visit to Florida for a shuttle launch:

Total Solar Eclipse magazine article

NASA Stories magazine article

US Space Program: Rising to New Heights magazine article

Voyager Mission magazine article






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