12A - The Michigan Daily -- Friday, November 20, 1998
The University is the only school in the nation with an alumni club on the moon.
As the song says, University students are the 'leaders and best,' but a select
group of University alumni also have ...
magine you are strapped to a large rocket that is
about to hurl you, at thousands of miles per hour.
°. into the brilliant blue sky.
Your heart beats faster, your palms become sweaty,
your adrenaline goes wild.
In your headset, you can hear the countdown speed-
ing ever closer to zero as the butterflies in your stom-
ach threaten to burst free.
Three... two... one...
And suddenly you are being slammed against your
seat as multiple G-forces propel you upwards to your
destination - space.
The hundreds ofJhours oftraining and years of wait-
ing have finally come true. You are weightless, float-
ing freely above the Earth, staring at a view that mil-
lions have dreamed of but only a handful before you
A few lucky University students who went on to
become National Aeronautics and Space
Administration astronauts experienced this scenario
Astronaut Jack Lousma was chosen for the NASA astronaut corps
in April, 1966 after graduating from the University in 1959 with a
bachelor of science in aeronautical engineering.
After initially being informed he would fly aboard one of the later
Apollo missions, which were scheduled to land on the moon,
Lousma was told the final three Apollo missions had been canceled.
"It was a great disappointment," Lousma said. "But it was really
Photos Courtesy of NASA
Clockwise from above: University alumnus James Irwin stands on the moon next
to the lunar rover during Apollo 15.
A University Alumni Association certificate is left on the Moon by the Apollo 15
University alumnus Jack Lousma stands outside of Skylab 3 during his spacewalk.
University alumnus James McDivitt sits aboard Apollo 9.
University alumnus Ed White participates in the first American spacewalk during
Engineering Prof. Tony England attempts to drink Coke aboard the shuttle.
University alumnus Karl Henize tries to drink Pepsi during his shuttle mission.
the luck of the draw because there were so few rides then. Programs
came and went and you felt lucky to get on anything."
Lousma finally received his chance to fly into space aboard Skylab
3 on July 28, 1973. At the time, Lousma and his crewmates set an
endurance space record by spending 58 days aboard Skylab. Lousma
described his first space experience as very peaceful and philosophical.
"Being weightless is a pleasant and relaxing experience," he said.
"The philosophical perspective is unique in looking down instead of
While the flight itself was amazing, Lousma said his greatest thrill
came 10 days into the mission when he was able to leave the craft and
float freely above the Earth during his spacewalk.
"I had a small humble feeling of being alone in the middle of
nowhere," Lousma said. "There's a sense that's it's just you and God
and the spacecraft."
Lousma described the view while outside the spacecraft as much
crisper, almost like animation.
"When in the orbiter, you can only see a part of the Earth. On the
spacewalk, you see the whole panorama and can sense the speed a
whole lot more," he said.
"You can see the beautiful colors. The blue of the ocean, the white
of the clouds, the deserts - as if painted by a master painter, with
much more contrast."
While passing over Mongolia during his spacewalk, the orbiter
entered the night side of the Earth without its lights on. With no atmos-
phere or lights blocking his view of the heavens, Lousma said, many
times more stars were visible in the complete blackness.
"When we went into darkness without lights, all you could see
were the stars," Lousma said. "I could barely see my hand in front
of my face."
After returning from space, Lousma received a parade in Ann
Arbor and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University
during commencement ceremonial in 1974.
Lousma later returned to space aboard the third flight of the space
shuttle Columbia in March, 1982.
Lousma lives in Ann Arbor and continues to stay in touch with
NASA and people in the space program. Admiring John Glenn's
recent return to space, he hopes to follow suit someday. Glenn "is an
absolutely wonderful person who deserved it. He has
always served his country directly," Lousma said.
"Hopefully I'll get a chance to do that, too."
18 years of waiting
The year was 1967 and NASA was looking for sci-
entists to send to space. The name Karl Henize, an
astronomy Ph.D. graduate from the University, was
passed to NASA.
There was only one problem with his qualifications.
Henize was 38, and at that time NASA did not want to
risk sending someone that old into space.
Two years later, NASA again turned to the astrono-
my community and asked for a name - and was again
sent back the name of Karl Henize.
This time, they agreed to include Henize in the train-
Vance Henize, a Ph.D. candidate in space physics and
astronomy at Rice University, said his father was chosen
because he had both the physical and mental abilities to
become an astronaut - a rare trait within the scientific
"You wouldn't want to meet my dad in a back alley,"
he said in reference to his dad's strength.
Karl Henize was originally scheduled to fly aboard
Skylab 6, but in an identical situation to Lousma's with
the Apollo missions, the Skylab missions were cut
"It was difficult at times waiting so long," said
Caroline Henize, Karl's wife whom he met while at the
University. "It had more to do with poli-
- tics than anything."
Initially, Karl Henize was placed into the
candidate pool for the upcoming shuttle
project that was scheduled to begin five
years later. But continuing delays post-
poned Henize's trip until 1985 when he
was finally able to fly aboard shuttle mis-
Once he was in orbit aboard the shuttle, Caroline
Henize said her husband was called a "closet geolo-
gist" by the other astronauts due to his fascination with
the land features that could be seen from space.
Henize and the other astronauts also took part in an
impromptu physics experiment, in which they discov-
ered that the special cans of cola they were given
became balls of foam when sprayed, making them
impossible to drink.
But by spinning the foams balls they could separate
the liquid from the foam and make use of the special
After his shuttle mission, Henize retired from the
astronaut corps and took a position as a NASA
Henize's life ended tragically in 1993
while climbing Mount Everest.
Overcome by high altitude sickness, the
members of his expedition were unable
to get Henize off the mountain in time,
and on Oct. 5 he was buried on Everest.
A view from above
Another Wolverine also flew aboard
shuttle mission 51-F, performing the same
job as Henize, only on different shifts.
Anthony England, a University engineering
professor since 1988, was chosen as an astronaut in
1967. In an identical situation as Lousma, he was scheduled to fly
aboard one of the canceled Apollo moon missions.
Finally able to fly on the shuttle in 1985, England and the crew
experienced another space first as they were the first mission to have
their engine shut down, almost causing an aborted mission.
England stressed that unlike many flight crews, the crew of 51-F
enjoyed working together.
"We had a close crew," England said. "At the time, (Henize) was
the oldest astronaut in the program while I was the youngest."
Weightlessness eventually was mitigated, but England said the
most memorable aspect of the mission was the view.
Flying during the time of the annual Perseid meteor shower,
England painted a picture of the scene above the Earth while look-
ing at the aurora borealis extend into the sky, as meteors zipped
through the glow. "It was otherworldly," he said. "Definitely some-
thing to remember."
The original space heroes
The University's original two astronauts graduated together in 1959.
James McDivitt graduated first out of 606 students in his undergradu-
ate Engineering class, while at the same time Ed White received his
masters in Engineering. Both were selected to the astronaut corp in
1962, and were the first University students to travel in space aboard
Gemini 4 on June 3, 1965.
While in orbit, White became the first American to walk in space.
From tapes of the mission, White can be heard refusing McDivitt's
request to come back into the spacecraft, stretching the spacewalk
out to 20 minutes more than the 10 that were planned.
After returning to Earth, White and McDivitt were first thrown a
ticker tape parade in Cl' cago with an crowd estimated at more than
2 million - the large parade crowd ever at the time. On June 15,
the astronauts were r ammemorated in Ann Arbor during a ceremo-
ny at the Big House. which included then-Gov. George Romney.
Declaring June .,S, 1965 "James McDivitt/Ed White Day,"
Romney and then-University President Harlan Hatcher presented
White and McDivitt with honorary doctorates.
The same day, White and McDivitt cut the ribbon on the opening
of the Space Research Building on North Campus. The signed ribbon
still hangs inside the entrance of the building. Additionally, the corner
of South University and East University avenues was renamed "James
McDivitt - Edward White Corner" and a commemorative plaque can
be viewed near the Engineering Arch under West Hall.
McDivitt later returned to space aboard Apollo 9 in March 1969.
During the mission, the lunar module, which would land Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon a few months later, was
White died on Jan. 27, 1967 during a training mission that is
commemoratively known as Apollo 1. While on the launching pad,
the space capsule burst into flames, instantly burning all three astro-
nauts inside the cansule.
Worden received his masters
degree from the University in
1963 and was selected as one of
the new group of 19 astronauts in
April, 1966. Flying aboard Apollo '
15 as command module pilot,
Worden did not walk on the moon,
but did complete the farthest
spacewalk ever, when he left the
orbiter at a distance of 200,000
miles from Earth. Irwin graduated
from the University with a masters
degree in 1957 and was also part
of the new astronaut group of
His flight aboard Apollo 15
culminated in the landing of the
lunar ship Falcon on the moon.
After his return from space,
Irwin made several unsuccessful
trips to Mount Arafat in search of
Noah's Ark, and passed away
from a heart attack on Aug. 8, 1991.
Scott spent his first undergraduate year at the University in the
early '50s and was selected to become an astronaut in 1963.
His first space flight came aboard Gemini 8 with his partner Neil
Armstrong on March 16, 1966. Due to a collision with a satellite the
two were supposed to hook up with, Scott missed his planned space-
walk. Scott's second space flight came aboard Apollo 9 with McDivitt.
Scott's final space flight came aboard Apollo 15. On that mission,
Irwin and Scott walked on the moon.
While on the moon during the July, 1971 Apollo 15 flight, Scott
and Irwin became the first astronauts to drive the lunar rover around
A popular myth floating around campus claims they also placed an
"M" flag on the moon, but this rumor cannot be confirmed. The only
confirmed University mementos on the moon are a certificate granting
the moon an official University Alumni Association club and a crater
The astronaut legacy
In the early years of the space program, a number of astronauts
were sent by the military to attend the University.
During the 1950s, the University's aeronautical engineering depart-
ment was one of the leading programs for future astronauts, with the
department offering courses directed toward the new space program.
"These courses were very applied and the applications were direct-
ly applicable to the space program," Engineering Prof. Harm Buning
said in a written statement. "In the '50s we gave courses directed
toward the - then novel - space related subjects, such as orbital
mechanics, mission planning, re-entry physics."
While Buning said the nature of the courses has changed since that
time, so has the nature of the space program. During the intensity of the
space program in the '60s and '70s, University astronauts continually
risked their lives attempting new and untested challenges from space-
walk to driving on the moon.
It was a time when the new astronauts received much accolade and
praise from the entire nation and the University community was proud
to take credit for their new heroes.