First Orbit & 150th Anniversary of Abner Doubleday’s First Shot


“…But back in 1961, there was nothing not to tell because there was so little that was genuinely known. It was Gagarin who had the spine to go up and find out, and he would pay a high price for that. Like America’s Glenn, he was officially — but quietly — grounded after his return from orbit, the space agencies of both countries deciding that they could not afford the risk of losing a national hero in a second mission when his first had gone so well. Gagarin’s face would appear on coins and statues and posters and pennants — and later on T-shirts and tattoos and all the rest. But the man himself would forever be denied the thing he did — and loved — best. He would die at age 34, a terrestrial creature like the rest of us…”

The call it the Right Stuff.  Before they could go into orbit, the sound barrier had to be broken.  It is something residents of Lincoln County have a tendency to complain about, frequently.  Unfortunately, The Pink Flamingo also has been known to complain when the dishes rattle, the pictures go crooked, and the nerves are shattered.

Today, as we celebrate 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarian’s first orbit, we need to stop and remember the brave men who went before him, many of whom gave their lives, to get there.  Chuck Yaeger was the first.  I have a cousin who was also one of those with the Right Stuff – Dan Riley.  (One Sunday evening, while having dinner with him, I waited until he was taking a sip of tea, then asked if Tom Wolfe had mentioned if he had the Right Stuff.  He spewed tea everywhere!  He and Yaegar STILL don’t like one another).

“…Neither Gagarin’s small stature — he stood just 5 ft. 2 in. (1.57 m), the better to fit inside the tiny pod that was the Vostok spacecraft — nor the brevity of his space career, which spanned just a single, 98-minute orbit, dimmed his radiance a whit. And when he died young — losing his life in a crash of his fighter jet during a routine training mission just seven years after his ride in space — he ensured himself the forever-beautiful icon status of James Dean, John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe before him, and Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy Jr. after…”

Today we take take space flight for granted to the point where the Obama Administration has managed to kill off what little hope we had for NASA’s future.  The libertarians who now control the public discourse, and have the GOP in a psychological choke-hold don’t approve of anything that the government does, and do not approve of government funded space exploration.  While The Pink Flamingo has absolutely nothing against the commercial development of space flight, and feels it may be our future in space, there are several things the Federal government does well.  Space Exploration is one of them.

When Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin took his fateful journey 50 years ago, today, it was not about space exploration.  It was about national pride, prestige, and security. We were in the middle of the Cold War, a long and protracted proxy war that did not end until the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989.   One of the problems of our current society is the fact that the far right and the libertarians are quite ignorant when it comes to history.

Once again we are in the middle of a protracted war for our existence.  We now live in a nation of very small minded, very little people without a vision.  All they can do is cower and quake, cringe for the future.  They are petty, pathetic little creatures who think only about themselves.  They are abject craven cowards.

When a man agrees to be fired on the tip of a rocket, and did not know if he would survive – that’s bravery.  It’s what you call a “hero”.

Today is the 150th anniversary of the first shot of the Civil War.  It was fired by Abner Doubleday.

“…Doubleday initially served in coastal garrisons and then in the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848 and the Seminole Wars from 1856 to 1858. In 1852 he married Mary Hewitt of Baltimore. In 1858 he was transferred to Fort Moultrie in Charleston harbor, but by the start of the Civil War, he was a captain and second in command in the garrison at Fort Sumter, under Maj. Robert Anderson. He aimed the cannon that fired the first return shot in answer to the Confederate bombardment on April 12, 1861, starting the war. He subsequently referred to himself as the “hero of Sumter” for this role….”

Doubleday is better known for having “invented” a certain American pastime.

“…Although Doubleday achieved minor fame as a competent combat general with experience in many important Civil War battles, he is more widely remembered because of stories that he invented the game of baseball, supposedly in Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.

The Mills Commission, chaired by Abraham G. Mills, the fourth president of the National League, was appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of baseball. The committee’s final report, on December 30, 1907, stated, in part, that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.” It concluded by saying, “in the years to come, in the view of the hundreds of thousands of people who are devoted to baseball, and the millions who will be, Abner Doubleday’s fame will rest evenly, if not quite as much, upon the fact that he was its inventor … as upon his brilliant and distinguished career as an officer in the Federal Army.”…”


(Also on this day in 1999, Bill Clinton was cited for contempt for giving “intentional false statements” in a certain sexual harrassment lawsuit).