I distinctly remember a crushing feeling that all of my grade felt when Russia 'won' the space race. We felt betrayed, like our scientists has let us down. Since it was October of 1957, I would have been in the first grade.
My group of kids were the first generation raised with the new invention of television and I remember watching it on the old Philco TV that my parents had recently purchased within the last year. I also remember them advertising that Disney's Mickey Mouse Club would soon be airing and my mother commenting that Merideth will really like that. I believe it's first airing was in 1955 but maybe our ONE local television channel only began carrying it in 1956.
In May of 1961, the US finally sent a man up in space. Alan Sheperd went up briefly and back down never making a complete orbit. On the 20th of February, 1962, John Glenn became the first person to orbit the earth. It was Tuesday and for some reason, after school, I was at my grandmother DeSotel's house. We watched the video and narrative of the Glenn flight and after it was over, my grandmother turned to me and stated, "If God had meant for us to be on the moon, he would have put us there!" I was slightly shocked by her comment as those of us in the fifth grade thought space flight the most natural thing in the world. At least half of the boys in my grade had astronaut aspirations. Probably the remaining half wanted to be corn/hog farmers. (North East Iowa)
Later,, as an adult I had the opportunity to view a Mercury capsule just like the one Glenn orbited in. It was at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in front of the State Museum on 14th street. (If you have kids, be sure and stop and visit their natural science section with the rhinos and mammoths and oh my!) The capsule was unbelievably small with barely enough room to sit, Every square inch was accounted for. I couldn't imagine riding across the street in it, let alone orbiting the earth. Glenn must have been a man of extraordinary courage and faith to have gone into space.
By 1972, when man stepped on the moon, we were living in Wyoming and I never asked my grandma what she thought of that when we visited her.
Godspeed John Glenn. America needs more men like you were.