On July 20, 1969, five-year-old John Glenn Riester was playing outside when his parents called him in to watch Apollo 11 land on the moon. He says everyone gathered around the family’s television set and watched the historic landing in silence. Even at his young age, John, now retrofit’s publisher, recognized the significance of the moment. Maybe that was because he had been named after John Glenn, the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth; Glenn circled Earth three times in 1962. John Glenn was John Riester’s mother’s hero and, therefore, John had a natural interest in space travel because of his namesake.
I, too, always was curious about space. I can remember wanting to be an astronomer at a very young age. I wanted to study the moon, stars, planets, galaxies and all of space’s mysteries—with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I was nine years old when the Challenger was engulfed by fire over Cape Canaveral. That moment left a lasting impression on me (and guaranteed I will not be signing up for any space tours with Blue Origin or Virgin Galactic).
However, I am in awe of the men and women who are brave enough to launch into space. There’s one astronaut, in particular, I’ve been following the past few years. Maybe you’ve heard of her: Astronaut Christina Koch participated in the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019 and, when she returned to Earth in February 2020, she had broken a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman (328 days in space). I’m thrilled someone with my name is doing extraordinary things in space!
In this issue, John and I merged our love of space with our chosen profession of magazine publishing with retrofit’s “Cover Story” about the restoration of the Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston. It was in this small room—roughly 44 by 58 feet—that young mission controllers oversaw the Apollo program, most famously landing Apollo 11 on the moon.
I was giddy with excitement as I called into a NASA conference line to speak about the restoration with Sandra J. Tetley, Johnson Space Center’s historic preservation officer, and Adam Graves, historic preservation lead for the Apollo Mission Control Center restoration via his company, GRAVitate LLC. I could have spoken to the pair all day; it was a fascinating discussion! I told Sandra and Adam I would’ve preferred to chat with them in person, during a tour of the restored Apollo Mission Control Center. They invited me to Johnson Space Center to walk through the restored mission control with them, and I’m already planning a trip this fall.
As if going to see the restored Apollo Mission Control Center wasn’t exciting enough, because of this story in retrofit, Astronaut Christina Koch, who is based at Johnson Space Center, now knows about me and offered to take a photo with me in the Apollo Mission Control Center when I visit. Tell me that’s not the coolest thing in the galaxy?!