November 22, 2013
image from LPL
|50 years ago early in the afternoon President John Kennedy was assassinated. I was an undergraduate assistant at Gerard Kuiper's Lunar and Planetary Lab in Tucson, Arizona. I was at work and someone told me that it had just happened. I couldn't believe it so walked home to listen to a radio for news. I heard that it was true and sat numbly there for some time. I had gone to the Los Angeles Coliseum in July, 1960 to see Kennedy give his acceptance speech, and I briefly met his brother Ted, who came to the University of Arizona campus to campaign for him that fall. Like many Americas I was caught up in the hope that a New Frontier of possibility was coming with a young President and perhaps a less confrontational world. And when Kennedy announced, following the sub-orbital flight of Alan Shepard, that America was going to the Moon, I was ecstatic. On November 22 I walked back to the Lunar Lab where I could be sad and uncertain (had the Soviets done this?) in the company of friends. Later that afternoon this photo was taken - a pre-scheduled picture for an article about the Lab for Sky & Telescope. I can't find the entire picture - in this one Dale Cruikshank is cut off from the right side, but Alika Herring and taller Bill Hartmann stand next to me in front of the Lunar Lab building. I am holding a copy of the Communications of the Lunar and Planetary Lab that had just appeared with the catalog of lunar craters that I had coauthored. It should have been a proud moment with my first publication but my face could not hide my seriousness. A few years later I joined the Peace Corps and was surprised and pleased to more than once find a photograph of President Kennedy on the inside wall of a hut in Kenya. He was a hope not just for America but for people in many parts of the world.
Yesterday's LPOD: Uninspiring, but an Active History
Tomorrow's LPOD: Exploring the Intermediate Zone