Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Of Meteors and Astronauts (Part 2)

On Sunday morning promptly at 8AM, Paul Weitz met me for breakfast at my hotel in Flagstaff. Paul, who was the Pilot of the Skylab I crew and the Commander of STS-6, graciously agreed to meet with me to certify some artifacts that I had purchased from him via the Swann Auction of 2005.
We had a very pleasant chat during breakfast. We discussed the Navy, Space collecting and Paul's flights and subsequent position as the Deputy administrator for JCS.

After breakfast, Paul and I went back to my room and we sat down to work on the certifications for several artifacts flown on Skylab I from Paul's collection. The above photograph shows Paul holding one of his flight suit name tags. The name tag is made of beta cloth with Velcro stitched onto the back of the tag.

Paul talked about the flight. We also talked about the mission numbering system that NASA used and has become so confusing. The reason for the discussion was due to our attempting to figure out what exactly to write on each item for a mission number. Paul said that the missions were numbered by NASA starting with the launch of the unmanned space station, Skylab. Then each manned mission was to use the Roman numeral that represented the order of their mission (i.e.. Skylab I, Skylab II and Skylab III). Unfortunately, Skylab 3 used the Arabic numerial instead. Which has caused confusion ever since. We agreed to have Paul write Skylab I (SL-2) on each artifact.

One of the artifacts, I did purchase was the hairbrush Paul used aboard Skylab I. One of the photographs we took was a "tongue in cheek" picture of Paul actually using the brush. There was hair in the brush that was actually from the time the brush was used on the mission. I told him that I was going to sell the hair at auction and capitalize on the current controversy about the sale of astronaut hair at auction houses.

We went over several other artifacts related to Skylab I as well as covering a lot of ground about the workings of NASA, autograph shows and Flagstaff. We finished up about Noon. Paul and I walked back down to the lobby, took a picture together next to a Christmas tree and Paul was on his way. A few minutes later, I was on my way south to Tucson by way of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona.

Arizona is the land of the vista. I left Flagstaff behind, which lies on a plateau at an elevation of 6000 feet, and headed south towards Sedona.

A short time later I was greeted by the sight so feebly shown in the above photograph. The picture attempts to show the entrance to the Oak Creek Canyon, which spreads out before you as far as the eye can see. The small road that snakes in and out of the photograph is Route 89A. The road drops you from 6000 feet where this picture was taken to 4000 feet where the road disappears into the distance. It is a very rapid descent to the bottom of the canyon. I cannot adequately describe the beauty of the area.

One of the sights that really struck me was the bright red colors of the sandstone that is so prevalent in the Flagstaff area. There are vast tracts of tall Ponderosa Pines growing on top of pink soil. The color in the region is spectacular.

The above photograph shows one of the many rock formations created in the canyon by the flow of water over the ages. The top layer is a sandy brown followed by several layers of deep red sandstone, which stand out in contrast to each other as well as the green of the pine trees that are interspersed throughout the area.

Again, I played the tourist. How can you not be one of those idiots that stop in the middle of the road to take a picture of a view of the canyon like that shown above? It is truly breathtaking.

The water has sculpted the red sandstone in to unique shapes that stand alone as sentinels throughout the canyon like layered sandcastles. I know it sounds hokey, but I had never been to such a place of such stark beauty.

As the canyon flattens out into the desert like conditions of the lower plains at around 3,500 feet, there was this last lone stone tower that is named "Red Rock." You pass this last chunk of rock and then you drive out onto wide sandy plains of low brush. Then Route 89A merges back onto Route 17 and you are headed south toward Pheonix and further south into the desert towards Tucson.