The space program's golden years

To the editor,

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 astronauts landing on the moon brings back memories of my involvement in our space program.

I served a two-year tour as the meteorology/assistant intelligence officer on an amphibious group staff. Our primary mission was to transport and land marines and army personnel on foreign beaches in support of military operations. I was responsible for forecasting the weather for the transit of the naval task force and the weather in the landing zone and on the beaches.

Additionally, the naval amphibious groups shared responsibilities with naval aviation units for recovering spacecraft and astronauts involved in the manned space flight programs of the 1960s.

I was the recovery area meteorologist on the Gemini 8 spacecraft recovery ship USS Boxer, which was deployed in the Atlantic in March 1966 to retrieve the astronauts. Due to flight problems the spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific.

Once again, I was the meteorologist on the recovery ship for a Gemini space flight – Gemini 10, which successfully completed its mission to conduct rendezvous and docking tests with a target vehicle in space from July 18-20, 1966. My ship, the USS Guadalcanal, almost missed out recovering the astronauts when NASA decided the Atlantic recovery site was too rough and switched the recovery to the Pacific. Admiral William P. Mack, recovery area commander, called me up to the flag bridge and put me in direct communications with NASA Houston, and as the recovery area meteorologist I convinced NASA Houston the weather and sea conditions were within recovery specifications. The spacecraft landed in the Atlantic without any problems and the astronauts were picked up by a  helicopter and taken back to the USS Guadalcanal within a half hour of splashdown July 21, 1966.

– Donald Moskowitz, Londonderry, N.H., via email