Dan and Mom in Space

Today, Wally Funk, 82, became the oldest person to fly in suborbital space. She trained as an astronaut in the 60s when women were not allowed to become astronauts. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think of Dan and mom one Christmas.

Dan was fascinated with space exploration. He was going to be the first Chaffee in space. When Roger Chaffee was named as one of the crew members for Apollo One, Dan was both thrilled and disappointed. He wrote a letter to Astronaut Chaffee and, to his surprise and delight, Dan received a lovely letter in return.

Excitement turned to horror and grief on January 27, 1967. Dan never again spoke about becoming an astronaut. But that came later, after my story.

In this June 2021 image, our Sun’s glint beams off the Indian Ocean as the International Space Station orbited 269 miles above south of western Australia. NASA.GOV

My older brother Scott was in the army, stationed in Germany and away from home on Christmas. We were spending Christmas at my grandparents. Santa brought Dan a space helmet — the space capsule was awaiting him at home. Dan was also interested in becoming a newscaster as a fall back career, so as a present to Scott, Dan taped interviewed the first woman in space — Mom.

The only thing I remember from that interview Dan asking if the helmet was a problem. Mom said she didn’t wear a helmet because it mussed her hair. The look on Dan’s face and my mom’s efforts to keep from laughing were front-of-mind today when Wally Funk finally made it to space.

I’m sure Dan and Mom were watching.

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