From 1960 through 1963 I was president of The Astronaut Fan Club. I was also founder and its only member.
You might say it was a front for getting as much NASA swag as possible. Don’t get me wrong, the astronauts were my heroes. We lived in the era of heroes and it was for that reason I wanted (and still possess) every iota of paper ephemera I could absorb.
My strategy was simple. I typed letters everyday, seven days a week, to each and every NASA employee, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut and X-14 pilot asking them for autographed photos and whatever else they could spare. I was so persistent that Chuck Yeager, the famed test pilot and breaker of the sound barrier asked me to stop writing him.
The Mercury astronauts were more generous (or at least less annoyed by my mail-stalking). They would send “personal” letters and mostly stock photos. But Gus Grissom one of the Project Mercury Seven and the first astronaut to die when a fire consumed his Apollo command module, sent me an actual signature.
To look at this low impact design and illustration from the Sixties takes me back to when things were simple. I admire the NASA worm logo designed by Danne and Blackburn for symbolically bringing the space program into the space age, but this comic book or Flash Gordon graphic simplicity evoked an innocence that we’ll never see again.
Should NASA have returned to the “meatball” logo? No! There is no going back to the moment when Alan Shepard went into space took Freedom Seven up into space for a 15 minute sub-orbital flight. It is also a shame that as a nation we are looking too much at our collective navels than into the far reaches of space for our moral compass.
This NASA swag is not a monument to design but it is a record of when heroics were valued and leaders were respected because they were heroes,
[Breaking news: Astronaut Col. Frank Borman, after all these years, flips a moon at the moon and admits that orbiting the moon in Apollo was boring. “The first man to orbit the moon has said it was only interesting for 30 seconds and he couldn’t wait to get home to his family. Frank Borman, 90, said that while his fellow astronauts were mesmerized by space, he was quite bored.”)