Fifty-five years ago tonight, on Thursday, November 29, 1962 my reporting on Dr. Carl Sagan's four-lecture series at Park appeared in The Park Stylus. My remarks included: "Dr. Sagan dealt with the physical environment of Mars, evidence for life on the planet, and planned space experiments to detect life on Mars."
On November 27 I wrote in a one-year-diary: "Today I interviewed a nationally famous astrobiologist, Dr. Carl Sagan, assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard, who's here today through Thursday to lecture on life in outer space! Since I'm so interested in the field, his first two lectures were fascinating and it was a thrill to talk to him." Note: Dr. Sagan was not yet internationally known because he had not yet been involved with producing the 1980 PBS series, Cosmos.
As a high school student I participated in a southeast Iowa declamatory program of memorized speeches called original oratory. I named my junior year speech in 1960 "The Decade of Man in Space" and my senior year speech in 1961 "Greetings, Extra-Terrestrials!"
On January 3, 1960 I wrote in a diary entry, "I finally finished 'Your Trip into Space' by Lynn Poole.
On December 31, 1960 I wrote "Thus ends 1960, the first year of The Decade of Man in Space!"
Here then are selected excerpts from diary entries pertaining to our planet's developing space exploration:
Note: I postponed by a day writing about the first U.S. astronaut to enter space because I had spent Friday, May 5, 1961 at Iowa State University with other high school students. On May 6 I wrote my May 5 entry by beginning: "This is being written on May 6 because by the time we got home from Ames at 2:30 this morning I was too tired to do anything but jump into bed," and then described the day.
Saturday, May 6. 1961: Yesterday the United States made history by sending Alan Shepard into space for fifteen minutes. It was an "absolutely perfect" trip. My "Decade of Man in Space" original oratory speech has come true.
Friday, July 21, 1961: We watched Gus Grissom's flight into space this morning. For some reason a malfunction occurred that caused the hatch to blow off after the landing and the capsule filled with water and sank in three miles deep water. Grissom got himself off and started swimming. The lift-off was so easy and smooth and the flight perfect. The control crew was so calm. Alan Shepard was the one who got to communicate with him.
Tuesday, February 20, 1962: Col. John Glenn orbited the Earth three times today in the United States' first orbital space flight. The J.R. was full of people watching television when the rocket ship lifted smoothly off the pad at Cape Caneveral about 8:45 this morning.
Tuesday, May 14, 1963: Gordon Cooper's one and a half days space trip was postponed this morning. They had a T-60 minutes hold when they couldn't get the gantry moved away from the space capsule (because of water in the fluid line). The final postponement came with a radar failure in Bermuda. They'll try again tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 15, 1963: Gordon Cooper's liftoff at 7:00 this morning was perfect. He's supposed to "sleep" in space tonight.
Thursday, March 18, 1965: Seth and I just finished watching the Russian TV pictures of one of their cosmonauts. It was a two-man space flight in which one stepped outside the space capsule to become the first man in history to "walk" in the weightlessness of outer space. It's amazing that we can see pictures of it the day it happened.
Wednesday, March 24, 1965: Another space flight this morning! Seth and I watched the moon shot pictures being transmitted as the Ranger zeroed in on the moon's surface for several minutes before impact. It was one of the most fascinating things I've ever seen. Seth went to the American Physicists Society meeting in Kansas City to work (filing cards).
On December 1, 2017 at 7:00 I will walk to Unity on the Plaza in Kansas City to hear Astronaut Scott Kelly talk about his memoir - Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. He ended his book with this paragraph: "I also know that if we want to go to Mars, it will be very, very difficult, it will cost a great deal of money, and it may cost human lives. But I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."
How far we've come since Dr. Sagan came to Park College (now Park University) in Parkville (suburban Kansas City, MO). Dr. Sagan left planet Earth far too soon at age 62 due to his myelodysplasia complicated by pneumonia. But who knows - perhaps he now can see billions and billions of stars. And I'm sure he is pleased with Scott Kelly's story.
About the diary writer
- Barbara McDowell Whitt
- Kansas City, Missouri, Alexandria, Virginia, United States
- ~ About: A 1961-65 Park College Diary ~ As a high school girl and then a college coed in the first half of the 1960s, I wrote nightly entries on the pages of one-year diaries. In January 2010 I began transcribing the entries into a blog and gave each one a title. I grew up on three farms within 30 miles of Iowa City and the University of Iowa. As the oldest of four daughters, in my diaries I sometimes referred to my sisters as "the kids" or "the girls." We helped our parents, but we also had good, wholesome fun - a characteristic I took with me to Park. Park is 300 miles from West Chester, Iowa in Parkville, Missouri, on the Missouri River 10 miles northwest of Kansas City, Missouri, and across the river from Kansas City, Kansas. In 2000 Park College became Park University. Today Park's flagship campus is in Parkville and there are an additional 41 campus centers across the nation. Park was one of the first educational institutions in the United States to offer online learning. Beginning in August 2015, 50 years after I wrote my last entry in a one-year diary, I've written Park-related blog posts to keep A 1961-65 Park College Diary current.