Long, long ago — far before I found the passion for aviation within our atmosphere, I had a huge passion for space exploration and astronomy.
OK, I am not sure how “huge” a passion can be at the age of seven, but I am sure I was one of the biggest post-toddler fans of NASA way back in the mid-80′s. I had so many books on the subject that they covered my bedroom floor, and acted as “stepping stones” for my mom to avoid stepping on the strewn particles of my LEGO collection. I can’t figure out where the interest came from, but I had it bad for space.
Unfortunately, January 1986 negatively impacted my interest in becoming an astronaut. It’s not easy for a 3rd grader to watch images like the Challenger tragedy and be easily scared at the sudden realization of human mortality and fragility. As it happened, my teacher was completely enthralled with Christa McAuliffe and the Teacher in Space mission prior to that fateful day. It was surreal when the passion and enthusiasm he displayed turned to extreme sadness and horror within such a short time. Needless to say, I drifted away from space over the next few years until I found my calling with warbirds and General Aviation in 1989 at the age of 10.
Other than the occasional news stories I’d catch on TV, I rarely ever followed anything related to space after that time. My teen years were swallowed up by WWII aircraft and flying on planes of the past; far from the forward-thinking visions of space travel.