I’m a child of the shuttle era, but I grew up reading the tales of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. That heady time in the 1960s was so foreign to a teenager growing up in the age of personal computers and Internet access: people glued to television sets watching space shots. Newspapers carrying pages upon pages of space content, rather than small mentions.
My favourite book symbolizing what this era was like – at least, from the starry-eyed optimist’s point of view – was This Is Cape Canaveral, a children’s book first published in 1963 and subsequently republished under the names This Is Cape Kennedy and This Is The Way To The Moon.
Writer and illustrator Miroslav Sasek portrays the crowds, era and missile-obsessed businesses with a taste of humour and a keen eye for detail. It’s attention that his audience demanded: “Detail is very important to children,” he said in a 1969 interview. “If I paint 53 windows instead of 54 in a building, a deluge of letters pours in upon me!”
I cracked open my dog-eared copy the other day to play a mini where-are-they-now game with some of the mentioned landmarks and people:
- Satellite Motel: According to a CollectSpace forum, the famous Earth globe atop the hotel’s sign toppled and fell into decay.
- Astrocraft Motel: Shown in this Flickr picture in a 1960s-era snap, the hotel was reportedly demolished. You can see more hotels from the era here.
- Patrick Air Force Base: It’s still around and to this day, watches over the Eastern Range (which includes the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station). It even has a Twitter feed.
- Mercury astronauts: Of the seven astronauts who were first selected to fly into space in 1958, two of them are still living. John Glenn, who went on to become a U.S. senator, still shows up at space community events despite his advanced age (91) – which shouldn’t be too much surprise given he last flew in space at age 77. The 50th anniversary of Scott Carpenter’s Aurora 7 flight just passed a few months ago; Carpenter himself is now age 87.
- Mercury Mission Control Center: The central nervous system for Mercury missions was demolished in 2010.
Lead image caption: In This Is Cape Canaveral, Miroslav Sasek wasn’t afraid to poke fun at the excitement of the early days of the space program.
Elizabeth Howell (M.Sc. Space Studies ’12) is a contributing editor for SpaceRef and award-winning space freelance journalist living in Ottawa, Canada. Her work has appeared in publications such as SPACE.com, Air & Space Smithsonian, Physics Today, the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., CTV and the Ottawa Business Journal.