Kuiper poses with a statue of Deke Slayton in a spacesuit.

Deke Slayton

Kuiper hangs out with his buddy Deke Slayton in this throwback from 2017. He was just a little over a year old and already a sit stay pro!

Unfortunately the Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle museum in Sparta, WI was closed when we were passing through, but we hope to visit it next time around. We have family in both Minneapolis and Madison, and the museum is more or less equidistant, so there’s a good chance we’ll be back.

Deke Slayton was the only Mercury 7 astronaut who didn’t get to fly a Mercury mission. He was supposed to fly MA-7, where he would have become our second American in orbit. He even named his spacecraft: Delta 7. However, he was grounded just a few months before launch.

NASA had known since 1959 that Deke had a minor, occasional irregular heart rhythm. After examinations by several doctors as well as an electrocardiogram, Deke was informed that his heart wouldn’t be disqualifying. However, one of the doctors secretly wrote a letter to NASA administrator James Webb advising that Deke not be allowed to fly.

In early 1962, the doctor spoke up again, and Deke’s medical file was reopened. Deke was cleared for flight by eight Air Force doctors, but a panel of three nationally recognized cardiologists concluded that while he was likely fine, “if NASA has an astronaut without these symptoms, they should use him instead of Donald Slayton.” Thus Scott Carpenter was chosen to replace him.

Although grounded from Mercury, Slayon stayed on at NASA, serving as assistant director and then director of flight crew operations. In 1972, after working for a decade to cut down on alcohol, quit smoking and exercise regularly (and also consuming an arguably excessive amount of vitamins), he was cleared for flight. He immediately borrowed a jet from a nearby Air Force base and spent an hour doing loop de loops and barrel rolls. Wheeeee!!

Deke eventually flew in space in 1975 as part of Apollo-Soyuz. After the first stage of the rocket burned out, he yelled, “I LOVE IT!” He then proclaimed, “Man, I’ll tell ya…this is worth waiting 16 years for!”

Have you ever waited a realllly long time for something you realllly wanted?

Original post: https://www.instagram.com/p/BvQqk1TjiI0/

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