Richard Nixon, Geoff Fox And A Wollensak Reel-To-Reel Recorder

There was no real purpose for me going to see Richard Nixon, a man I reviled, speak. I thought it might be fun, especially as a member of the working press.


While out in Brooklyn with Matt I saw this Wollensak tape deck at the flea market.

So old. So outmoded. So close to getting me wrestled to the ground by Secret Service agents!

It was October 27, 1970 at the Palm Beach Auditorium and Richard Nixon was speaking. I was working at WMUM, what was then called an ‘underground station,’ located on Palm Beach Island.

There was no real purpose for me going to see Richard Nixon, a man I reviled, speak. I thought it might be fun, especially as a member of the working press.

OK, I was pretending to be a member of the press–but the ruse worked!

I packed up our Wollensak recorder, threw it in my Volkswagen and headed to the venue. As I remember the White House staff set up a ‘mult box’ which provided a clean podium feed to all who needed to record it. I plugged in a cable I’d brought and waited.

When Nixon finally came out to speak I pushed the play and record buttons simultaneously (that’s how you recorded) and watched the reels begin to turn.

A few seconds later there was noise–lots of noise. The Wolly had slipped a belt and was complaining loudly about its state. People were turning to see what was causing the ruckus.

Three tall men in suits with identical abstract buttons on their lapels walked toward me. Two turned their backs while standing between me and the podium. The third asked what was wrong?

“I think it’s a belt,” is what I remember saying as the whir grew louder.

He looked at me and my long hair. He was not happy.

I took my hand, clenched it in a fist and hit the tape recorder hard a little left of center where the counter was. The bigger the problem the bigger the hammer, right?

Silence. All it needed was a zetz!

The Secret Service agents turned and without a word quickly faded into the crowd. I began to breath again.

My First Car Reappears

Back in 1969, while I was living in a dorm at Emerson College (it would be unfair to Emerson to claim I was attending school), I bought a car. It cost $400, a big investment for me.

Today, I was pulling into the parking lot at Dunkin’ Donuts when I spied this 1960 oxidized green VW Beetle. That’s exactly what I owned!

OK – it wasn’t originally oxidized green, but that’s what it evolved to.

The 1960 Volkswagen was a tiny death trap with no safety features. There are no seat belts. The dashboard is metal. The gas tank is under the hood in the front, where the crumple zone is today. With thin tires, any wind pushed it back and forth across the road.

Its six volt positive electrical system (today’s cars are 12 volt negative) made getting parts a chore. It also had headlights with the power of birthday candles and a three speed manual transmission.

With no radiator (it was air cooled) the heating and defrosting systems were pretty close to worthless. Air conditioning… you rolled down the window – by hand.

I loved this car. You just have no idea. It was liberating.

I once got my VW to 62 mph, but that was on a long, flat, deserted stretch of Military Trail in West Palm Beach. Going up hills, it often had trouble sustaining 50 mph.

The owner of the car pictured below runs a garage restoring old VWs. I have seen him driving around in classic Beetles before, but never in my car.

The back story is, this particular car was owned by a woman who kept it in storage for thirty years.

It will be its old self soon. This guy knows what he’s doing.




Moving Out – Stef Returns To College

After I flunked out of Emerson (At the height of the Vietnam War. What was I thinking?), I took a job at a radio station in Palm Beach, FL. I packed everything I owned into my VW Beetle. I still had room to pick up a hitchhiker on the way (who let me sleep on a couch at a dorm at Georgetown).

Again, everything I owned in a Volkswagen. Everything! But I digress.

Stef returned to campus today. She’s helping the underclassmen move in, so she got her room in the dorm a few days early. We set out at 2:00 PM, knowing we’d have time to get lunch before the dorm officially began accepting residents at 6:00 PM.

The packing had been going on for days at home. At times I made the fatherly mistake of questioning what was being assembled.

“You’re taking two dozen pairs of jeans,” I whined in the general direction of my non-sympathetic daughter. How could anyone “need” more than twenty pairs of jeans?

Steffie does! She says she does. Perception is reality here.

In a perfect world, Stef would go through life like Cher at a concert, changing outifts to something new and fabulous every few minutes. She’s probably reading this now and thinking how good an idea that is.

Last night my little car slept outside while Stef’s was parked alongside Helaine’s in the garage. She had backed in; the car’s hatch facing the door to the mud room. Let the packing begin.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but when it was all over, there was room for more… though not much. Stef and Helaine managed to stuff both a full size and compact SUV! There was room for me to ride as a passenger, but only barely.

I was riding shotgun as Stef left, around 2:00 PM. We saw Helaine leave the driveway and then she was gone. We took the turnpike. Helaine went on the parkway.

Actually, Stef and Helaine have very different driving patterns. Helaine is cautious and moves at a moderate speed, staying with the prevailing traffic.

Steffie drives faster – too fast really, but that’s out of my hands at this point. She’s is very cautious, constantly checking those around her in her mirrors. Thankfully, she avoids the speeder’s trap of weaving in and out of lanes.

As we crossed the Throgs Neck Bridge, Stef told me how she likes taking thte bridge so she can catch a glimpse of the New York skyline. I was pleased to hear that, because I feel exactly the same way.

She said she knew there were lots of people who wait their whole life to go to New York and that she was lucky to have it at her feet. Again, I totally understand.

We made it to the campus a full half hour ahead of Helaine. She doesn’t drive that fast. The turnpike is just a faster way, even though Google says it’s only three miles shorter.

After lunch we headed to the dorm. As is always the case, we headed inside to get a giant, wheeled, rubber cart… but there were none! We’d have to carry everything by hand.

Moving a child into a dorm isn’t like moving in a moving van. Clothes, though on hangers, are loose. Lots of bulky items, like the TV, are brought ‘as is,’ not in a box. We had more bulk than we had weight, and we had plenty of weight.

This year Stef’s in a single. It’s a small room about the size of a walk-in closet. It’s got a bed, dresser, wardrobe cabinet and desk. It’s high up, on the 14th floor of what looks like a poured concrete building.

She has an amazingly unobstructed view of the Manhattan Skyline, nearly twenty miles away. When I asked her to look, she was blown away. It’s breathtaking, even at that distance.

Stef sees more than the city. She can watch planes landing at LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports and most of Nassau County, Queens and Brooklyn. With binoculars, I suspect she’d see the Statue of Liberty.

As nice as the room is, there is one downside. It is on the 14th , but the elevator only goes to 13.

I’m serious.

With each load we’d leave the elevator, walk a short corridor then open a fire weight metal door and climb a flight of stairs where another fire weight metal door was waiting.

Steffie’s next door neighbor and friend, Kim, was also moving in . Between Kim and (mostly) Stef, the hallway was soon a staging area for the final critical elements of the moving process.

After a while it was time for me to put on my pocket protector and become tech support. I set up the TV and DVD (please – no comments showing your age by grousing about Steffie having a TV and DVD in her dorm room).

Somewhere along the line she had lost the long cable necessary to circle the room to the outlet. She’s on her own for that one.

I untangled the rats nest of cables for her speakers and put them on a shelf above her printer. I hooked up a wired network connection only to find she had an excellent wireless signal. That’s new this year. For versatility, I hooked her up to the 802.11g signal.

A little after 8:00 PM, with much of the room still to be unpacked, we said goodnight and headed north.

We will miss Steffie a lot. This was a great summer for all of us. We enjoyed each other’s company and spent a lot of time together.

I’ll especially miss stopping by her room when I come home. We had some great conversations and I suspect I learned a lot about Stef this summer. She has changed with the college experience.

We’ll see her again in a few weeks when we all head down to Florida for my mom’s birthday. As much as we took today, I’m sure we’ll be bringing her something she forgot.

Karmann Ghia – Blast From The Past

Photo from my Motorola RAZR cameraphone

31 Jul ’06, 7.26pm EDT

Originally uploaded by Geoff Fox.

Today, on my way to work, I had to stop at the oil company. If you’re not from the Northeast, this might surprise you. Many homes here are heated with oil, delivered by truck, year round.

Anyway, as I parked, it caught my eye. A blazing orange 1974 Karmann Ghia. I loved those little cars. Back in the late 60s and early 70s this was my dream ride.

Here’s the truth. The Karmann was just a Volkswagen with a nicely styled body. It still couldn’t accelerate out of its own way. It was tiny, tinny and cramped.

My assumption was, they came from the factory with rust pre-installed. That’s probably why, though loved, there aren’t many left.

Actually, this one looked pretty good. It had that slightly oxidized flat finish that cars from that era acquired with age (and without wax).

You know what? All that practical stuff means nothing. It was a sweet looking ride and helped define an era.

Can your Taurus say that?

Stef Returns To College

Today was Steffie’s day to return to college. Classes start on Monday after what seems like a century of vacation.

Considering she’s 18 and we’re not, we all got along very well during the break. Of course some of that was on vacation, during which we followed the ‘open wallet’ policy. For another week or so, she was with my parents in Florida where no store was left unvisited.

The trip to school is nearly 100 miles, taking nearly two hours. Is there traffic? C’mon – we’re passing through the Bronx and over the Throgs Neck Bridge.

Speaking of traffic – the next time someone questions my accuracy, let me refer them to the traffic reporters I heard today. Was I listening to a ‘best of’ compilation while they took a cruise?

On the way back, as we zipped along between 70-80 mph, the disk jockey on one Connecticut radio station cautioned us about the residual traffic backup from an earlier accident in the very spot we were passing.

At least on TV we’re forced to show you the traffic cameras. It keeps us honest. On the other hand, not many people are listening to our TV traffic reports in their cars.

A long trip contains lots of time for talking. Among the things I learned was Helaine’s plight as she tried to transfer money from our checking account into Steffie’s debit card account.

She needed a password and then an emergency backup super secret answer. “What is the name of your favorite pet,” the bank asked? “Ivy,” replied Helaine. Big red letters appeared on the screen! Wrong, wrong, wrong. “Your pet’s name must have four or more letters!”

Next question.

Two thirds of the way there, I decided to tune the radio to Mega 97.9. OK, they’re in Spanish and I don’t speak Spanish, but it seemed right at the time.

This station was first placed on the air by the Muzak Corp. in 1941 as W47NY on a frequency of 44.7MHz. In 1943, the call letters were changed to WGYN. When the new FM band was adopted in 1946, the station moved to 96.1, moving again to 97.9 in 1947. In the early 1950’s, the station became WEVD-FM&#185, which it remained until February, 1989, when the station was sold to Spanish Broadcasting and the current call letters and format were adopted.

As we got to “La Mega,” they were going into what seemed like a two minute live commercial, on remote and over the phone, from Potamkin Mitsubishi – Volkswagen. From there it was a long series of commercials in Spanish, followed by three in English and another in Spanish.

It’s very strange to hear Spanish commercials with English thrown in. Phrases like “18 to party, 21 to drink,” appeared in the middle of an an otherwise all Spanish ad.

I was getting into the music, but Helaine and Steffie were looking at me with that strange glance that normally comes prior to involuntary commitment. We switched stations.

Our E-ZPass was put to good use as we approached the Throgs Neck Bridge and passed a few lines of 20+ cars waiting to pay cash.

Though Stef had brought a half car’s worth of stuff home, we went back to the dorm loaded. I have no idea where all that stuff’s going.

I attempted to re-snake the cables for her computer and knocked over the hutch which sits atop her desk. Papers and pictures and three shot glasses (effect only – I’m sure they’d never been used) all hit the linoleum floor. The glasses shattered.

Helaine and I didn’t stay long. Once the glass was picked up and some rudimentary straightening was accomplished, we were in the car, on our way home. I stopped for coffee and gas and was headed toward the parkway when the phone rang. It was Steffie.

She found a wire that wasn’t in its proper place, attempted to snake it under the hutch and suffered the same fate as her father! We turned around and headed back.

That’s where we got to see Nassau County’s crowning achievement in fiscal responsibility. At this 90&#176 intersection were at least 17 traffic lights. I’m not sure. There might be one hidden by the bus.

Again, for those of you just joining the broadcast – 17 traffic lights. Anyone got a brother-in-law in the lighting business?

We’re home now. Steffie is asleep in the dorm (or so says her IM away message). I’m not sure she can appreciate how much we enjoyed being with her and how much we miss her.

Sending a child to college is just as much a test for the parents as the student.

&#185 – In a startlingly strange sign of New York’s very liberal past, WEVD was named after Eugene V. Debbs, American labor and political leader and five-time Socialist Party of America candidate for President of the United States. How strange is that?

Going To College

Over the past few weeks, the sun room has been filling up with goods. There were blankets and sheets and comforters… computer paper and notebooks… enough hair and beauty products to restock RiteAid… snack foods and soft drinks… and suitcases filled with clothes.

Steffie is packed and ready to go to college.

Note to possible roommates: Pack light. There’s no room for you.

I have taken today off from work to facilitate packing the car and picking up any last minute items. So far, things are going smoothly because Helaine and Stef (and not Geoff) are well organized and thoughtful.

Every time we deal with packing, there is a small family conflict. Steffie has said I could go anywhere for any length of time and pack it in a ‘hobo stick’. She doesn’t mean that as a compliment.

When I moved to Florida in 1969, I packed everything I owned into a Volkswagen Beetle and still had room to pick up a hitchhiker (who then allowed me to spend the night at a dorm at Georgetown). Ah, for the good old days.

A few minutes ago the sun room was emptied into the Explorer. We’ve folded down half the back seat. Everything fit pretty easily. Of course there will be stragglers; things that won’t make it to the car until tomorrow morning.

The fact that Steffie is leaving for college is a major moment in all our lives. Must I sound like a prototypical American Dad? I remember the first moment I held her, seconds after she was born.

Parents tend to dwell on stuff like that, so no matter how old a child gets chronologically, she’s still our baby. She should still be wearing pants with snaps and a bib when she eats.

Actually, the bib when she eats isn’t a terrible idea.

Steffie’s joke over the last day has been, when I mentioned she had given blood, I should have said she is “effin’ awesome.” OK. Let me take this opportunity, she is “effin awesome.”

Yes, she’s the same baby I held in my arms at Yale/New Haven Hospital. She’s also somewhat (not totally) grown-up.

There will be temptations at college. No parents to bother her with parental guidance. No curfews. No one to check when she comes and goes and what she’s done while she’s out. In most classes, attendance isn’t taken.

I don’t expect her to be perfect.

College was my undoing. I can’t put my finger on why, but I expect the opposite will hold true for Steffie. I’m confident she will thrive. I’m just worried there won’t be room for a roommate.

We leave early (for me) tomorrow morning. There is a chance the blog won’t be updated, or will be updated very late. I’ll do my best. I’m sure there will be lots to talk about.

Rendezvous With A Comet

One day and eleven hours from now, the Deep Impact spacecraft with crash into Comet Tempel 1.

That’s just crazy. Stop and think about it for a second.

Here’s a comet, tiny in the general scheme of things, which is moving pretty quickly through space. The impactor, the part of the spacecraft that will hit the comet, will be closing at 22,000 mph (if I’ve done my km/s to mph conversions correctly).

By the time it’s all done, the impactor will have blown a whole somewhere between the size of a house and football field into the comet’s side! Gas and debris should be ejected back into space.

Flyby spacecraft – nearly as large as a Volkswagen Beetle automobile.

Impactor spacecraft – about the same dimensions as a typical living room coffee table.

As it approaches, the impactor will be looking for a spot somewhere between the greatest mass and brightest point, making sure it doesn’t hit the edge of the comet and break off a piece or bounce back into space. All of this will be done autonomously since it’s too far from Earth for us to ‘drive’ the spacecraft in real time.

This crash will be monitored so scientists can try and get a better feel for a comet’s makeup. Comets formed early in the universe’s pre-history, so their makeup should be a clue to what went on then and how we got to where we are today.

The element copper isn’t expected to be found in the comet, so the impactor is made of it. That way, copper can easily be excluded from the scientific revelations that will surely come.

Back when I hosted Inside Space I learned one thing that serves me well for this mission. All extraterrestrial objects are shaped like potatoes. Don’t ask why. I don’t know. But, it’s true!

It’s possible when the impactor hits Comet Tempel that it will flouresce enough for us to see it with the naked eye. More than likely though, we’ll have to depend on NASA and their onboard cameras to get us the video sometime over the next few days.

Luckily, there’s no governmental agency better at multimedia and the Internet than NASA (and I only shudder to think what it costs all of us). There’s a pretty good Deep Impact website with everything you need to know – and then some.

It’s still pretty cool.

My First Car

The five of us went out this afternoon for a quick shopping trip. First though was a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for some coffee. It was there I spied the green Volkswagen.

As it turns out, there’s a guy in my town who has a business refurbishing these tiny cars.

The car I saw (and the car in the picture here on the web) is a ’67. Mine was a ’60. There is a lot of difference internally&#185, but from an aesthetic standpoint, it’s the same car. In fact, mine was the same color green, albeit faded and pock marked with rust.

Looking at that old Beetle brought back a lot of memories. With its narrow tires the VW moved around the road as if it were in a dance contest. There was no way to keep it in one lane as long as there was any breeze at all!

There were no seat belts, air bags nor any other kind of modern safety equipment. The dashboard was metallic and not padded. To make matters worse, the gas tank was under the hood, sitting pretty much on top of your feet.

Speaking of under the hood, that’s where the trunk was… and also where you filled the gas tank. I opened the trunk of the car at Dunkin’ Donuts and instantly was reminded the body had the thickness and resilience of an Altoids box!

With its little air cooled engine, it could accelerate 0-60 mph in a week or so. Actually, mine could barely get to 60 mph (I think I once got it to 63 mph). On a steep grade, even when starting at highway speed, you’d have to downshift to maintain. That meant a top uphill speed under 50 mph!

While cruising at top speed, I remember trying to throw my weight forward, as if it would help accelerate the car.

Since there was no radiator (it was an air cooled engine after all) the heater/defroster was challenged. It was always cold in the winter and anything that fell from the sky stuck on the windshield. The little wiper blades were totally ineffectual.

Did I mention I loved this car.

I bought it from what I thought was a private owner. As I later discovered, I bought it from someone who had purchased it after a wreck (let’s use the southern vernacular) and redid the body.

More than once the master cylinder, which powered the braking system, failed. I drove around for weeks at a time using only the emergency brake. What a stupid thing to do. I’m not proud. In fact, looking back, I am appalled. What was I thinking?

I bought the car with the intention of bringing it back to Boston where I was going to school. I paid my money, but didn’t know how to operate a ‘standard’. The Volkswagen had a ‘four on the floor’ manual transmission which had to be coordinated with proper use of the clutch. Two feet for driving and only the left hand dedicated to steering, with the right throwing the shifter.

The car’s seller sat in the front seat and gave me a lesson. We drove around my neighborhood of six story apartment buildings in Flushing for about five minutes. I hit no one. That was it. Lesson complete. Within the next half hour I was on my way north!

As I remember it, I stalled the car while leaving the toll booth on the Whitestone Bridge.

Having a VW was great for Boston. It could fit into nearly any space, legal or not. In that pre-computer age I collected parking tickets issued by the Boston Police Department and strung them together like a string of pearls.

Even today, 35 years later, I worry they may still be looking for me – somehow establishing a waiver to the statute of limitations since I owed enough to bail the Commonwealth out of any financial jam.

That little car that I bought for $400 meant so much to me. It was an integral part of my growing up. When I moved to Florida, it was the VW that moved me there – everything I owned and still room to pick up a hitchhiker on the way to Washington, DC.

Seeing this green car today meant a lot to me. I know I stayed and gabbed and slowed everyone else in the family down. I called Steffie over to look, but it was meaningless to her. You had to be there, back in the 60s when the VW Beetle was a symbol of the counterculture.

Today, again, for a few moments I was.

&#185 – All cars now, and the car in the photo above, have 12 volt electrical systems with negative ground. My 1960 Beetle had a 6 volt system with a positive ground. All it meant was it was impossible to find anything that worked in the VW that wasn’t specifically designed for it.

Another Reason Not To Smoke

I saw this just a moment ago on

A San Francisco man learned the hard way that littering — especially burning objects — is not a good idea. Jonathan Fish was driving across the Bay Bridge on Thursday when he tossed his cigarette out the window. But the cigarette blew back into his $30,000 Ford Expedition, igniting the back seat and filling the SUV with smoke. Fish pulled over and leaped from the flaming vehicle, which kept rolling and crashed into a guardrail. “It was in flames by the time he got out,” said CHP Officer Shawn Chase. “He had some of his hair singed on the back of his head. (The car) burned down to the frame.” Fish likely faces a misdemeanor charge for littering, which carries a fine of up to $1,000.

It’s a sort of funny, ironic story. Except for me, now over 20 years a non-smoker, it hits home.

It had to be 1969, wintertime, and a Saturday night. I was living in Boston, making believe I was attending Emerson College and working as a talk show producer on the Steve Fredericks Show at WMEX.

Being a talk show producer sounds more glamorous than it really was. WMEX was a second rate station with an awful signal. It was owned by Max Richmond, a larger than life caricature of himself. Everything he did was done with an eye to cost. That’s fine, but reward should be factored in as well.

We were in a building originally designed by a movie studio for their Boston operation. That’s probably the reason it was built of cinder block with no insulation.

I answered calls and watched the door to the outside. I didn’t even screen all the phone lines. Some came to my little booth – others didn’t.

The show ended at (I think) 2:00 AM. I found my car, a faded green 1960 Volkswagen Beetle&#185 and headed toward the Mass Pike. I was going to Albany, NY to see my friend Larry Lubetsky, a student a SUNY Albany.

Back then I was a smoker. My cigarette of choice was Tareyton. That was the brand which showed smokers with black eyes and the caption, “I’d rather fight than switch.”

This was the time when a pack of cigarettes in a machine cost 40&#162. I remember going to WHDH-TV (then Channel 5) for a conference and seeing cigarettes in a hallway machine for 35&#162!

I’m sorry. This story isn’t going in a straight line. Back to what I’m writing about.

As I drove, I smoked. And, as the cigarette would burn down toward the filter, I’d roll down the window and flick it outside. Looking back, that was wrong and I apologize to society in general for my selfish attitude.

Somewhere between Worcester and Springfield the car seemed a little smoky. Of course I had been smoking. So, I rolled down the window, let in some fresh wintry air, and then rolled it back up.

You didn’t want to keep the window down long in a 1960 VW. The heating system was vigorous enough to keep you warm through early September. After that it was a losing battle against the elements.

I continued driving, though the toll booth at the eastern end of the turnpike and through the Berkshires into New York State. The smoky conditions were getting worse. The window was going down more frequently.

It is only in retrospect that I realize I should have stopped and looked.

I merged off the Berkshire Extension of the New York State Thruway onto the main line. Even at this late hour there was truck traffic and my VW’s lack of power (the car topped out at around 60 mph… and took around a minute to get there) made me check my mirrors constantly. It was then I spotted the red glow from behind the back seat.

The 1960 Volkswagen had bucket seats in the front and a bench seat in the back. Behind the bench was a rectangular, deep pocket where you could store things. When I bought the car, there had been covers on the front seats. These fabric covers were in that pocket and they were on fire. One of my flicked cigarettes must have been blown back into the car.

I pulled to the side and jumped out. I didn’t think about safety at the time as I reached back in, flipped the front seat forward, pulled the slipcovers out and began stomping on them on the shoulder of the New York State Thruway.

I left them there, on the side of the road where they could commiserate with lost shoes and socks and the other things you find at the highway’s edge. I was shaking, now realizing what had… and what could have happened.

Still, I had to make it to Larry’s apartment before dawn. I hopped back in the car, lit another cigarette and started to drive.

Some people never learn.

Blogger’s note – I have been smoke free since the winter of 1984-85. This event had nothing to do with quitting. Of all the things in my life that were smart, quitting smoking was one of the smartest.

&#185 – I couldn’t find an actual photo of a green 1960 VW Beetle. I did find a yellow one and with Photoshop, made it green. Helaine took a look and said the color was unnatural. Actually, the color is pretty close. Though this was glossy paint when it left Germany, it was a very dull green during my ownership.

Live From Titan

Before the cable networks interrupt (probably around 2:45 PM), I thought I’d start the cheering section for the Cassini-Huygens mission and the upcoming pictures from the surface of Titan.

As best I can figure it, we’ve launched a rocket to Saturn… made course corrections along the way, then more enroute, to allow it to fly between Saturn’s rings… then launched a Volkswagen sized space probe, carried on this mothership, to the surface of one of Saturn’s moons.

That just gets us there. On its way down to the surface of Titan, Huygens had to transmit data which was received by Cassini still in its Saturn orbit. There was only one chance for this. Then Cassini swung its antennas around and sent the data to Earth.

At this moment it looks like there’s real data coming back, though no one knows what it shows or if it’s useful… and won’t for another hour and a half. After that we should get photos and atmospheric data from the surface of this other planet’s moon.

It is amazing, even before you realize the Huygens probe had to be packed with sensory equipment that would survive its blast into and journey through space, its separation from Cassini (using pyrotechnics to separate the two) and its plunge through the unknown Titan atmosphere&#185.

I have had plenty to say about NASA , most of it bad, in this blog. This is a real positive… a major accomplisment from an engineering standpopint. I’m looking forward to seeing the pictures.

It is amazing what man can do – what should be impossible… if we want to, put the right people on… and throw money at.

&#185 – The main reason we find Titan so interesting is that it does have an atmosphere. There are some scientists who feel it replicates the Earth’s during what could have been the dawn of life.

Men on the Moon – 35 Years Ago

Yesterday was the anniversary of the first men landing on the moon. Thirty five years ago today, Neil Armstrong took that first giant leap for mankind.

I remember those two days. I was excited to be working at WSAR in Fall River, Ma. It was my first professional broadcasting job.

I was on my way to work as the astronauts landed. I had stopped in my green Volkswagen Beetle at a rest area somewhere between Boston and Fall River. People were standing around listening to their radios. It was a sultry summer evening.

It is still astounding to me that we were able to achieve this amazing journey. Even today, with technology so far advanced, our space program is far from worry free. This was really uncharted terriotory in every sense of the word.

Over the years, some parts of the experience have been lost, others aodpted as if they had happened, when in reality they hadn’t.

For instance, we’ve all seen the film of Apollo 11’s landing, with the voices of the astronauts and Houston controllers calling out flight details. That film was not developed until the astronauts returned! Sure, we heard the voices live. We never saw the pictures.

Maybe there’s confusion because we did see (with some of the poorest video ever watched) Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. That was transmitted live from a camera mounted somewhere on the exterior of the lander.

One of my favorite trivia questions concerns the first words from the moon&#185. It wasn’t “One small step…” or “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

The first words from the moon were, “contact light.”

“Contact light…OK Engine stop…ATA outta detent…Mode control: both Auto…descent engine command override off…Engine arm off… 413 is in.”

Not very sexy. And, as my personal space expert, and former Inside Space producer, Dave Brody reminds me, that was said by Buzz Aldrin, not Neil Armstrong.

It is possible the greatest human achievment of my lifetime was achieved 35 years ago. That we haven’t exceeded this over that time period is a shame.

&#185 – My favorite trivia question is: “What is Lady Bird Johnson’s first name?” It is neither Lady or Bird.