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Space Exploration Enthusiast

Today's interview is with retired parachute rigger R.T. Bromley. RT hails from Joplin, Missouri, and his main interest is the US Space Program from 1967 through 1978, space exploration history and specifically the Apollo period.

RT: Thank you for talking to me, Lydia. I'm flattered for you asking to interview me as I am a nobody of course, but hey I believe I'm very well versed in just about every aspect of the Moon landings!

Lydia: Jumping out of aeroplanes, RT?

RT: Well, the answer to that question is I know why the birds sing plus it's a "rush" you cant get anywhere else!

Lydia: You mentioned your favorite Uncle Bill as the person who introduced you to the space program and astronomy.

RT: Yes. My Uncle Bill worked for Rocketdyne in the 70-80s for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That's who got me started with my obsession with space!

Lydia: "Uncle Bill" always seems to be an interesting relative, according to my unofficial poll. It seems we all have an Uncle Bill interested in Space Exploration.

I mention that my "Uncle Bill" (now deceased) and I frequented NASA in Clear Lake, Texas, around that time and we followed the early planning of the Space Shuttle, now on its last few missions. RT mentions his obsession with scale model building.

RT: I've been building a full-scale model of the Apollo capsule for about 10 years now and I'm not even 20% complete. It's a very expensive project and occupies a lot of my time in hunting down parts at "bone yards"! Like I said, it's an obsession I'll never give up!

Lydia: RT, how have you been able to handle the cost of building this model?

RT: I've tried to start a club and get sponsors but so far "no dice". People look at you like you're crazy! (Even aviation people. Why? I'll never know.) I've always said, "if you can't afford to buy one, build one yourself."

RT: I was always the kid building model Estes rockets and I even built a 3-foot-tall Skylab model that was donated to the Science Center in St Louis years ago after I won a local model show. It is in my blood. I think I was born at the wrong time.

RT Bromley's SkyLab model SkyLab from above
SkyLab from side
8" figures created using polymers and high tech clay. Lunar Astronaut 1
Lunar Astronaut 2

Lydia: SKYLAB! I remember that one! It fell to Earth luckily landing in the ocean, didn't it?

RT: I wanted it to fall in my back yard when we were moving from California to Illinois. My family and I were at the Grand Canyon when we heard it re-entered over the South Pacific.

Lydia: Imagine what pieces of that thing could go for on eBay ... oh wait ... it is government property ... oops ...

RT: If I were to find anything or that sort I would want to horde it in my collection.

Lydia: Well, here I must insert - for the record - Astronomy Today does not condone hording government property, although I definitely understand wanting to collect space debris. Meteorites are collectable, however any object found that survived re-entry formerly part (pun intended) of the space programme is government property and should always be returned to our favourite Uncle Sam. Okay, now that that's done ... Tell me about your patch collection, RT.

RT: I acquired an entire Apollo mission patch collection from an estate sale recently from a guy who worked for a battery company that makes the batteries for the Shuttle as well as Apollo and Gemini!

Lydia: Wow! I only have a few patches, mostly from the Shuttle missions. What's your favorite era in exploration?

RT: Apollo is great. I look at it as the real start of the Space Race. Have you seen this totally fabulous narrated video of the Apollo 11 launch at 500 frames per screen?

Lydia: Now that is spectacular, RT. We were lucky to live that moment on July 16, 1969.

RT: I really wish JFK had lived to see the culmination of his speech. I especially enjoyed the Apollo program, maybe because of its history - hard to say.

Lydia: Totally agree with you RT. Gemini, Apollo, the Shuttle missions, each one has a special place in history. Several years ago when I got the guided tour with JSCAS members and held those Apollo and Gemini manuals in my hands ... with the handwritten notes in the margins, my heart was skipping beats!

RT: Personally I don't think we should have abandoned that program as now we're going to be left without a vehicle to even get us to near earth orbit and completely rely on the other countries to get us there. Nothing against foreign space programmes, however I know a few astronauts may be turning over in their graves if it goes that way.

Lydia: Well, it is surely going to be interesting! By the way, have you seen the film The Dish? It's a comedy based on a documentary of the lunar landing and the Radio Telescope's participation in communications between Apollo 11 and Johnson Space Center?

RT: It's one of my favourites. My family is from New Zealand. This movie takes place in a small sheep-herding village in Australia starring Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton. I especially enjoyed the scenes with the guys behind the TV cameras solving the Radio Telescope's communication problems. They all made their mark on space history just as much as the Moon Walkers!

Lydia: RT, How did your family get from New Zealand to Missouri?

RT: My family migrated from the UK to the US in 1902. W.E. Bromley is my great, great, great grandfather and I am proud to say that on my grandmother's side we are related to the first President of the United States, George Washington.

Lydia: Talk about a pedigree! So, RT, what are your plans for this year?

RT: I'm going to the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas,for my birthday. I am so looking forward to seeing the Apollo 13 Command Module and Gus Grissom's Mercury capsule, the Liberty Bell 7!

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Author: Lydia Lousteaux

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