Moon Walker On The Line

by

Scott McGrew

“Hi, this is Scott.” I answered my cell phone in the 7-11 as I poured a Slurpee for my five year old (a potent mix of half cherry, half banana).

“Scott, it’s Harrison Schmitt.”

I had been warned he might call, but the call came as a shock nonetheless. The name Dr. Harrison Schmitt may mean nothing to you. You probably don’t even know who he is if I tell you he’s a geologist. Even the hint that he usually goes by his nickname “Jack” probably doesn’t help you any.

The cherry/banana Slurpee overflowed its container.

“Hey, everybody be quiet!” I wanted to yell across the convenience store. “You, making the hot dog of questionable origin! Hush.. do you know who’s on the phone? Jack Schmitt.”

Jack Schmitt was the last man to set foot on the Moon.

Now, I don’t want to sound full of myself, but I talk to famous people all the time. Just recently, I got into a long discussion about muscle cars with Billy Bob Thorton. Steve Wozniak, the creator of the personal computer, is a amiable fellow I run into every few months. Bill Gates and I can’t seem to find anything in common, but I’ve talked to him frequently enough that I don’t see it as particularly remarkable. But none of those men can measure up to an Apollo astronaut.

It’s all just history to some, but for me, the Moon landings were a major part of my childhood. I was too young to remember the first, but I can vividly recall watching later landings, several at a neighbor’s house-turned daycare in Madison, Wisconsin. Mrs. Smith would roll out a giant black and white television on a cart and we would gather around and watch three men sit on top of what was fundamentally a giant bomb as we counted down “10, 9, 8…”

I memorized all the spaceship names. Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Eagle and Columbia. America and Challenger. I wore out my pop-up book “Astronauts on the Moon” pulling the tab to move the CSM (which I’m sure you’re fully aware means command service module) while at the same time spinning the paper wheel to rotate the LM (lunar module, of course) into proper docking attitude.

Schmitt was the only scientist to ever set foot on the moon – all the others were pilots. After Armstrong proved it could be done, after Lovell brought his crippled ship back, after Shepherd hit his golf ball, NASA finally sent a scientist to the moon. And then cancelled the Apollo program.

So, when I saw a rather obscure press release saying that geologist Harrison Schmitt would be through town on Saturday, I knew immediately who he was. I called NASA and asked if we might set up an interview. We’re still working out the details — I’ll let you know in coming weeks if we can get it done.

One way or the other, though, I talked to a man who walked on the moon. HE called ME. And that’s pretty darn cool.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter

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