Rocket Man

by Earl Perkins

“We set sail on this new sea . . .”
On April 9, 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduced America’s first astronauts to the press–Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald Slayton. The seven men, all military test pilots, were carefully selected from a final group of thirty-two candidates.
But the real truth of NASA’s search for America’s best pilots is not found in the thirty-two finalists that eventually produced Project Mercury’s heroic list of space pioneers. The Original Seven Mercury astronauts chosen to lead America’s charge into a new frontier were certainly worthy. They were America’s best and brightest.
But perhaps the very best never got the chance and served his country in obscurity.

EXCERPTS

1.
Strange, Pete never heard his mom Amelia ever say one bad word about his father, and
all she ever said was that “He was doing something he had to do, so we have to trust him.”
He missed his father. His parents never divorced. In fact, the one time he asked his
mother if she had divorced his dad or if his dad had divorced her, she said, sternly, “Scott
Adrian Allen, if you ever ask me that again, I‟ll take a hickory switch to you!”
But Amelia raised her son to love God, his country, and his family. The Marine lived
and died by the same creed.
His mother always called him “Our little „Rocket Man,‟ ” when he was a young boy.
“Mom,” young Pete asked her once, “Why do you call me that?”
“Well, it was your father‟s dream to fly into space one day, even maybe walk on the
moon . . .” she said, her voice trailing off as if she were thinking of something far away.
“Anyway, it was your father‟s hopes that if he never got to do all that . . .” Amelia‟s
voice began to wander off again, “His wish was that if he couldn‟t, that you could . . .”
“So that‟s why you and Dad called me „Rocket Man?‟ ” Pete asked inquisitively.
“That‟s right, son,” Amelia said, “and always remember, your father loves you, and I
love you. Some day, when it can all be told, you‟ll understand why your father had to
leave.”

2.
“Nagy knew how badly Adrian wanted that, and for some unknown reason at the time,
was hell-bent on screwing your dad. I found out about a year ago through my top-secret
clearance about some official documents laying out the involvement Nagy had with some of
the Soviet spies that recruited him. Later, in his work in „Bright Star,‟ Adrian fingered
Nagy as one of the Russian spies. That‟s the biggest reason why Nagy hated him so much.
So Nagy set out to destroy your father‟s reputation, and he succeeded.”
“What is „Bright Star?‟ ” Pete asked inquisitively.
“It‟s the whole reason your dad left you and your mom, Pete. You will have to listen to
the VHS tape to hear it straight from your father,” Don said

3.
“But Pete, I must tell you, I feel that I can die and I am at peace now. I know the
documentation I have put together is accurate. Some might say I wasted my life away for
nothing, but I disagree. Every person that serves their country knows that he or she has
only one life to live, and only one life to give. I am proud to give my life for my country,
Pete. Amelia understood, and she held the same convictions. She knew what this was all
about. America is worth it. Living in a free country is worth it. Being free to worship God
is worth it. But my time has run out, and I need you to finish this for me, for our country.
“You have to finish the „Bright Star‟ job for me . . . Russia still has „Eastern Light‟ in
play. They are almost there, probably within four to six months of closing the deal. We are
in a race against time. You must get the next Orion mission to the moon. Find a way to
disable that trigger!”

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