But Carrying the Fire is the only astronaut biography I’ve ever read where I’ve kept a pencil nearby to underline passages because of the clarity of observation or the sheer beauty of the writing. Mike really was the hipster artist of the group, with the guts of a pilot and the mind of a poet, and he really deserves credit for that. How lucky were we to have that sort of person orbiting the moon, while history was made below him, reflecting upon the impact of their mission, the solitude of space and the human condition.
I’d love to have an hour to hang out and chat with the guy.
The years accelerate like a rising rocket, and that scares me more than the ride itself. Like most old people, I am crotchety, and—at seventy-eight—disapproving of younger customs and developments, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism.
Heroes abound, no doubt about it, but don’t count astronauts among them. The passerby who administers mouth-to-mouth, to a stricken stranger, the nurse in the emergency room who forges on while tasting spattered blood, the soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his buddies: these people are undeniably heroes, and should be revered as such. We astronauts were good; we worked hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but it was what we had signed on to do. It was not, in the words describing the Congressional Medal of Honor, “above and beyond the call of duty.” It was not heroism.