This kind of news always is coming like a racking ball. You never can be ready for them. You know that someday you will face with them but, still, they put you in a state of shock.
A few days ago when I started my day by browsing the news, I wasn’t expected to face such a shock. I open the spaceflightnow.com, and the first report was a sad and chilling one: “Former astronaut Bruce McCandless dies.”
For all of us who have any level of interest in the story of space, Bruce McCandless was a hero. I had his image on my wall back in Iran. He was the first astronaut who ever used a jetpack and travels away from space shuttle – without any real rope – and became a temporary satellite of the Earth.
The photo of his incredible journey still is one of the dazzling pictures of the space age. I had a chance to talk with Bruce few times. The first time was many years ago. When I was in Iran and working as a science editor at Jam-e-Jam daily newspaper, I found his email and asked him to have an email interview about his life and his view about the future of space. I wasn’t sure that I am going to get an answer. But he was one of my heroes and was looking at any opportunity to talk with him.
I can’t emphasize how sincerely I was surprised and thrill when the next day I find his response. We started our interview, and he generously walked me through his childhood, his career as a pilot and that particular moment when he became the subject of that historical image.
It was amazing how he told his story with the details and how humble he was in his achievements.
More than that he was so passionate about the future.
That was the beginning of our long-distance friendships. I asked him to share his ideas with me on several occasions. Including, World Astronomy Year (2009), the last flight of space shuttles and also Obama space program.
During these times he and I also frequently exchange emails. During the 2009 post-Iranian election protests, he was asking me about the situation in Iran and was worry about the people. Before that when Anousheh Ansari became the first Iranian born person who ever traveled into Space as a space tourist, he sent me an email, congratulate this flight to people of Iran and wrote that how he and his late wife, watched the liftoff and recorded it.
It was a few months ago that I heard from him for last time. He sent me an email, ask about what I am doing and if I am Ok.
Last week I was making a list of people who I want to send them a happy new year note and at the top of that list was Bruce, but now I just have to write here to remember him.
Dear Bruce, thank you for all of your support, for your kindness and for becoming such an inspiration for many people all around the world.
I never forget you and the world always remember you. When I asked you about that famous image, you told me because the anti-glare filter was on you couldn’t see my face and anybody could be behind that. But we know it was you, and we will remember that you were there. You were the first lone rider of the starry night, and you will continue to inspire generations to come.
Happy New Year Dear Bruce and Godspeed