Taking my place in space

When I was a lad growing up in Fall River I learned at an early age to become a suffering Boston sports fan. It’s in the DNA of most people from New England and I embraced it with open arms.

But I wasn’t a one-dimensional kid. I was into The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the whole British Invasion of the 1960s.

Besides athletes and rock stars I also raised a few others to the level of hero — among which were John and Robert Kennedy, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But it didn’t end there. I was, and I’m not sure how it came to be, a big fan of the U.S. space program run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Aside from reading Sports Illustrated and Sport magazines, and the occasional Rolling Stone magazine, I read a great deal about the rapidly expanding NASA space program.

Much like knowing the complete roster of the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s, I also knew most of the astronauts making history miles above us.

While meeting Ted Williams and getting his autograph is still one of my claims to fame, I also used to write to the NASA astronauts and get their autographed pictures, which ended up on my bedroom wall.

I had nice responses from heroes such as Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, Jim McDivitt and Roger Chaffee. I think I may have even heard from Neil Armstrong, but I’m not sure. That of which I am sure is that I no longer have these treasures (except for Teddy Ballgame’s!).

As most of us know Armstrong ended up being the first man to walk on the moon; Borman and Lovell made flights to the moon; and sadly, Chaffee along with two colleagues, died in a flash fire in the capsule of Apollo I while still on the launch pad.

I warmly recall watching Armstrong’s first step on the moon on live TV, watching with my dad on a black and white set. We were both greatly moved by that.

I always maintained an interest in the things NASA was doing, even though its popularity waned over the years. 

I was recently thrilled when a fellow alum of Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth) was selected to live on the International Space Station — Scott Tingle, who was born in Attleboro and makes his home in Randolph. He graduated nine years after me.

UMD asked alumni and current students to prepare a question for Tingle and some were selected to ask him the question during a live feed from the ISS. My question was one of them. I was beyond thrilled.

The window of opportunity was small since the speed of the ISS would quickly carry it out of contact range. 

I took a vacation day and went to UMD in a full auditorium with a live feed on the school’s website. I told family and friends to look for me.

I never got to ask my question and receive a response from 225 miles above. Despite being a grown man, I was crushed. Out of the 25 or so questions selected, I was last. But that’s fodder for a whole different column.

But this week my fascination with NASA culminated with the landing of the Insight Mission to Mars.

The big deal was that my name was on board the craft that now sits on the Red Planet.

A while back NASA invited people to register to have their name included on a microchip that would be affixed to the space craft.

I received a boarding pass (see photo at right) with a registration number and even earned award points for the more than 3 million miles traveled.

The chip (there are two) is about the size of a dime and both are located on the deck of the rover.

I’m one of one-half million names from the U.S., but I think it’s still a relatively small amount, and I also consider it a great honor to have some sort of presence on the planet Mars.

I wonder what my dad would think if he were here to learn the Jolivet name is now on Mars. I bet he’d be so proud.

There were times he thought I was a space shot, and this time he was right.


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