|A week ago three American Astronauts wrote their names into the history books by successfully completing the most difficult and dangerous manned space operation ever attempted.
Most people read the news with only academic interest. Even television pictures seemed one step away from reality. But for one Rushden couple it meant much more it took them back to their visit to Houston Space Centre where they saw for themselves the miracles of modern space technology.
They are Mr. and Mrs. Fred Butler, of 25, Oswald Road. Surrounded by mementoes of their visit including, appropriately enough, a copy of “Spaceland News”, they unfolded their story to the “Echo”.
They flew to America in September last year, to visit some friends Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. McBride. Mr. McBride was stationed at Melton Park Hall during the war and they had not seen each other since.
The couple live in San Marcos, Texas. In these days of quick travel San Marcos is only a stone’s throw away from Houston.
Naturally a visit to the Space Centre was high on their list of priorities. Their visit was not a very long one and time permitted only an afternoon looking round the centre but what there was to see in those few hours......
Among the incredible sights were realistic mock-ups of the historic Apollo 8 and the lunar module on the Apollo 9 now a £26m piece of orbiting “junk”.
There was also one of the actual space capsules the astronaut’s “living room” which had been recovered from the Atlantic Ocean.
“It makes you feel very funny when you think where that capsule had been right into outer space! You stand beside it and look in awe”, said Mrs. Butler.
“All I could think of was that I was looking at something which probably no one else in Rushden had ever seen”, added her husband.
The space capsule, they said, still bore the scars of its searing re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
The outside was burnt and scorched but, of course, the interior remained intact. The Space Centre had even gone to the trouble of putting an “astronaut” inside the capsule complete with space suit.
Mr. Butler was surprised at the freedom to move around which they experienced. “Naturally they only allow you to see what they want you to see,” he said, “but even so there are no guides and you can wander more or less where you like”.
Mr. and Mrs. Butler have been fortunate enough to see the opening chapters of a completely new dimension in world affairs. The space-race will have an entirely different meaning for them from now on.