John Young 2005 -- Custom Signing

at Novaspace Gallery

It's been rumored that John Young alone can coax the space shuttle into an aileron roll in the simulator. By any measure, he is probably the greatest astronaut who ever lived. He's flown most of the various spacecraft ever built by the U.S. and served NASA for 42 years.

We were most honored that Capt. Young chose Novaspace as the host for his only autograph signing, held May 6,7 and 8 at our gallery in Tucson. They arrived in the early afternoon. Former Gemini 10 crewmate and good friend Mike Collins had communicated to Young our trustworthiness and professionality, so had Gene Cernan.

Mr. Young took a brief tour of the gallery, but wanted to get down to the task at hand ASAP, so we did. Mr. Young was genuinely bewildered and amazed that so many fans would send in their items in for his autograph. He was unaware of the extent of the hobby and wondered where folks had obtained some of the photos, models and the like.

Our guest was Pete Peterson, a city manager and space collector from Johnson City in eastern Tennesee, who was the winner of our "spend the day with John Young" auction on astro-auction. The Youngs took a liking to Pete, who asked a lot of interesting, intelligent questions of Mr. Young. Pete was also booked into the same hotel, and so provided a breakfast buddy as well as a convenient ride to and from "work" for the weekend.

John Young was predictably quiet, quietly signing, doing the job a hand, signing slowly, but deliberately, not scrawling a quick signature, but almost drawing it, larger where necessary, smaller to fit into the "sweet spot' of a baseball. His inscriptions and personalizations perfectly printed, and straight and level. Someone would shoot a question at him while signing, but he would answer thoughtfully, without pausing, or misspelling a word.

He was asked while signing a giclee of Collins' LIFTOFF cover art, "Out of my Grasp" whether it was difficult to maintain his distance (from spacewalking Collins). He replied "No, but there were a lot of considerations, like not frying Mike with a thruster, while keeping a safe distance from the Agena target vehicle. There was also a last minute warning from the ground not to expose my open hatch to direct sun, lest the heat set off the ejection seat. I'm glad they told me, though we never trained for that. It was an interesting three-body problem."

Another thing he mentioned, while signing a "Rockets of the World" poster was that, if the Russians had beaten us to the moon, both countries would stll be there.

Meanwhile, Sally, Susy (Mrs. Young) and Jamye (his agent) went shopping for southwestern goods. Jamye was reluctant to go, wishing to keep an eye on proceedings like a good agent, but John said things were running smoothly, and she should go with Susy.

Mr. Young made several references to "my book" which he intends to write himself soon, and mentioned several instances where his own recollections differed from the accepted versions. It will be a good, if not long, memoir.

Capt. Young finished three days worth of goods in two, though staying neat throughout. He signed all the remaining Moonwalkers lithos in just a few hours.

Dinner on both nights were at Mexican food restaurants, at Susy's suggestion (with no argument from us.) Susy missed "cheese crisps" a crispy quesadilla, that seems to be a lost art elsewhere. We ordered several as appetizers. "Quick!" we said, as Mrs. Young was anticipating the flavor, and was not disappointed.

On the way to their airport departure Sunday morning, we stopped by the campus at the University of Arizona, and took a car tour. I, as a former student myself (I am still a senior) pointed out the new buildings. Susy wanted desparately to visit her old dorm, so we parked the car and hoofed it to the Maricopa girls dorm, a stately manor which has a Southern appeal, and lush surroundings.

In all, it was a great "homecoming" for Susy, and introduction to the autograph business for Capt. Young, a chance for us to put another feather in our cap, and make some new friends.

--Kim Poor May, 2005

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