Thursday, November 9, 2017

Fly Me To The Moon (Post #6)

It was raining hard when we arrived late afternoon at our hotel in Newport Oregon. We stayed at the Hallmark Resort there and I loved the property. Our room overlooked the beach and even though it was raining we could enjoy the view thanks to the comfy chairs placed in front of our sliders.

There's a nice restaurant called Georgies Beachside Grill right next door and that's where we had dinner. Call ahead is suggested and while it was crowded we didn't have to wait long. Also, order the seafood saute-yum!

We were seated in a booth and shortly after we sat down two couples were seated in the booth opposite ours, an older gentleman and his wife and a younger gentleman and his wife. We noticed the younger man was wearing an obviously well-loved flight jacket covered in patches and we wondered about his story. We weren't eavesdropping (not exactly anyway), but the booths were close together so we couldn't help but overhear snippets of their conversation. We heard NASA mentioned several times and also the words Mercury 7, Gemini,  Mars and a few other space related terms which peaked our interest. We convinced ourselves the older gentleman had been an astronaut and were determined to figure out who he was.

So we did what everyone does in 2017 and started googling images of astronauts from the 1960's. I discovered pretty quickly the original Mercury 7 are all deceased and he didn't appear to be one of the Gemini crew either. We were stumped.

At this point I might have carried on wondering and might have left never knowing, but Hubs LOVES all things space related so was not going to let it go.

As we were eating and googling they handed something small to our waitress and we heard them say it had been to the moon. English was not our servers first language and it seemed she didn't really understand what was happening but we did. Ha! When she came over we asked her if she knew the customer's name and she didn't but she did very helpfully walk back to their table and say 'Those people want to meet you.'

So we got up and introductions were made and we shook hands and y'all it just turned into the most fun thing. Hubs point blank asked the older gentleman whose name turned out to be Norman Chaffee (no relation to Roger Chaffee) if he was an astronaut and he said no, but that he did work in the space program. If you read his online bio you'll know that's a bit of an understatement. He was a very important part of the space program and was the engineer who designed the thrusters on Apollo 11. He worked on additional missions to both the moon and Mars and what he had shown the waitress was a piece of the heat shield that, as he put it, was 'just behind Neil Armstrong's backside' protecting him as he rocketed to the moon.

Really what happened was, we made introductions and someone mentioned the space station and hubs whipped out his phone and showed them the app he follows that tells you when the space station is passing over your head, and that's when they said, 'Ah, you're a science geek...pull up some chairs and join us.'

So we did because, of course.

The second man at the table was Jim Loftus, son of the former Assistant Director of the Johnson Space Center. He runs a museum now near Salem Oregon and was accompanying Mr. Chaffee the next day to speak to high school students from around the state. Jim Loftus' dad was at one time Norman Chaffee's boss, and was instrumental in selecting the original Mercury 7 and also later program astronauts. When Mr. Loftus saw hubs had that app on his phone he said, 'Wait right here, I'll go get his baby'. I wasn't sure what he meant, but he was back in a flash carrying a rocket thruster. Absolutely made hubs day!

In a funny coincidence Mr. Chaffee (who lives in Texas) has a daughter living not far from us here in the Palmetto State. Hubs did what he always does and invited him to visit us at the lake next time he's in town. They've exchanged emails since and we certainly hope he takes us up on it.

As we were leaving Mr. Loftus said to my husband how impressed he was that we spoke up. That people miss out on so many wonderful things in life because they don't seize the day.

Hubs is a master at seizing the day.


  1. What an interesting story, glad you spoke up and met them.

  2. that must have been an incredible experience.

  3. What a great story! I love the enthusiasm in your re-telling of the encounter!!

  4. What an awesome encounter, and you even have a photo as a souvenir! I popped over here to tell you that I haven't abandoned you or The Hodgepodge. There's just been a lot going on in my life for the past month, and I haven't felt much like blogging. I hope to be back very soon, though. Have a great weekend.
    Kathy (Reflections)

  5. My SIL would have had a fit! He loves all things space. He's a space/science geek but makes his living as a computer guru the likes of which I've never known. Anyway, if you see today's post you'll see the NASA shirt he bought for Marcy before she was born. LOL I'm loving these posts about your trip! We're like that Y'all in that we are not shy about engaging strangers in conversation. We've met some very nice and interesting folks that way, too.

  6. How exciting was that dinner!! I'm glad you got to talk to them. Seizing the day brought tears to my eyes.....