On the lighter side: Dick Gordon, astronaut

Joe Guilbeau, humorist

In a previous column, I noted that in my lifetime I had the privilege of speaking with several famous people including Stan Musial, Sam Walton, Jimmie Davis, Ray Price, Terry Bradshaw, Donna Douglas and others. I also had the special privilege of speaking with Astronaut Dick Gordon.

Gordon was the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 12, which splashed down on the moon on November 24, 1969.

Only 24 Astronauts have gone to the moon. Making it an exclusive fraternity indeed. From the moon, plant earth looks like a "Blue Marble."

Richard Francis Gordon, Jr. was born in Seattle, Washington on October 5, 1929. He was an American Naval Officer and aviator, a test pilot chemist, a NASA astronaut, and executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints football team.

Gordon won the Bendix Trophy race from Los Angeles to New York City in May 1961, in which he established a new speed record of 869.74 miles per hour and a transcontinental speed record of two hours and 47 minutes.

Gordon served as backup pilot for the Gemini 8 flight. In September 1966, he made his first space flight, as pilot of Gemini 11, alongside Pete Conrad. At that time, the flight set an altitude record of 851 miles, which still stands as the highest apogee earth orbit.

Gordon was already good friends with Conrad who had once been his roommate on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. (A carrier my cousin, Milton Guilbeau, had served on in an earlier time.)

Dick Gordon tells this story about how their children were affected by being the children of Astronauts: "In Astronaut Village three of the five houses adjacent to theirs were all astronauts, so it was no big deal. My son, Rick, thought I was cool because I could pole-vault."

Is there a father alive who doesn't want to be a hero to his children? That would seem to come automatically with the job of a NASA Pilot. But in this life nothing is certain. Dick Gordon tells this story: "When my son Rick was eight years old in 1965, he asked a boy at his school what does your daddy do?

"The other kid said he's a sheriff, and Rick said wow he's a sheriff? Does he wear a badge? Does he wear a gun? And got all excited. Then the other kid asked Rick what his daddy did? And Rick replied, 'Aw, he's just an astronaut.'"