Charlie Simms, Shepard’s Prayer and Low Bidder

This past Friday Charlie Simms asked me what I was doing on the 5th of May fifty years ago.  Since I would have been 10 years old at the time, I guessed that I was probably in the 5th Grade at St. Michael’s School having Mother Catherine Agnes drag my butt out in the hall for one of our little “chats.”   It brought back some bad memories actually.   
Charlie then told me that 50 years ago on 5 May he was at Cape Canaveral on the Navy’s recovery team tasked to retrieve Alan Shepard following his space flight.  Shepard was the first American in space aboard Freedom 7.   The occasion launched two Shepard quotes which have since become somewhat famous.  The following excerpt is from Wikipedia’s entry on Shepard.

Shortly before the launch, Shepard said to himself: “Don’t fuck up, Shepard…” This quote was reported as “Dear Lord, please don’t let me fuck up” in The Right Stuff, though Shepard confirmed this as a misquote. Regardless, the latter quote has since become known among aviators as “Shepard’s Prayer.”
According to Gene Kranz in his book, Failure Is Not an Option, “When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he had replied, ‘The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.'”

Ten years later Shepard would become the fifth man to walk on the moon when he was the Commander of Apollo 14, the third lunar landing.  Pretty remarkable run if you think about it: first launch in 1961 and eight years later we land on the moon for the first time.  (Of course the downside of this feat was that it led the way for every complaint afterwards to begin with “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we …”)

Speaking of landing on the moon, I recall hearing some folks, one of whom was my Grandfather Harry,  claim the we did not really do that and that it was all staged.  Reminded me of a comedian asking “Why is it that the people who think the moon landing was fake are the same ones who think that wrestling is real?”  (By the way, my Grandfather was a big wrestling fan.) 

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