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Rhode Island’s Right Stuff

Monday, February 20, is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s three-earth-orbit flight in the Mercury spacecraft called Friendship 7. In 1962, the four hour flight was a triumph for Americans competing with the Soviet Union in the space race, and by the end of the decade, Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Space Shuttle missions began in 1981, a year after Rhode Island’s own Sherwood “Woody” Spring was selected as an astronaut. Spring, raised in Eden Park in Cranston and Harmony village, graduated from Ponaganset High School in 1963.  He attended the US Military Academy, graduating in 1967 before he served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
Colonel Spring was selected as an astronaut in May 1980, and served on a number of Space Shuttle missions, including mission specialist on STS-61B which flew November 26 thru December 3, 1985. During that mission he was responsible for launching three communications satellites and performed two extra-vehicular activities (EVAs).
In 1986, the RIHS was excited to add Spring’s launch/entry coveralls, jacket, and gloves to the Museum Collection, documenting Rhode Island’s own astronaut. For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, the space program holds a special mystery and appeal. Last year, I stood in my back yard and watched the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Discovery pass overhead for the last time. I thought about Woody, and all the people less famous than John Glenn, who made the various NASA programs a success; on Tuesday, I read about the 50th Anniversary of Friendship 7 in the New York Times, and I thought about Woody Spring, Rhode Island’s own astronaut.
It’s such a Rhode Island story, how we’re all connected, and here’s this blue jacket that connects our state and all of us to an important part of recent history, and even, in a way, to the moon.
~Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections

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