01 Feb My Grandmother Worked for NASA for forty years
Man has been on this Earth millions of years, exploring the planet, building civilizations, killing and creating in an endless cycle. Man first went into space starting almost eighty years ago. Think about it, we spend all this time getting around our own planet, arguing over the smallest bits of land, but when we finally set our mind to space travel it only took us a few decades to get where we wanted to go.
I’m proud to say my grandmother was one of those that helped us to get there. She started out back in 1959, fresh out of college, as an intern for NASA. The space race was already going strong, the US vs. the Soviets, and she managed to get in right in the middle. Gram stayed there for forty more years, only retiring right before Y2K.
She’s up there in years now, and I wanted to try to do something to preserve the memories she had of that time, so I began to collect her stories. We started out with the basics, talking about how she joined, what she did, the history surrounding everything when she was there… all the things you learn in a high school history class.
When we started discussing the missions she worked on though, that’s when I realized that there was a lot of history missing. Locked up, never to be heard or read by anyone, nor should it. There’s a reason space exploration has slowed down. There are missions that were made off the books and off record, launched from secret blacksites around the world. Gram both saw and heard terrors beyond our comprehension from the dark void of space.
She shared these stories with me, these secrets kept from us by those in power. The human price of our curiosity is much higher than we’re led to believe, and these people deserve to have their stories known.
I’m enclosing one of her stories here. She can get a bit long winded, as some do in their old age, so I’ve tried to edit down anything that isn’t relevant. I’m still going through everything with her as well. With her age she can’t stay focused for very long, so we’re doing these little interviews in hour sessions every day. I’ll transcribe and upload what I can when I can.
What follows is the transcript of what Gram told me on April 4, 2020. Any interjections of my own will be formatted with brackets around them.
My name is Evalyn Lara Smart. I was a mission control contact with NASA from 1959 to 1999. I was the one that any astronauts or crew would speak to, the voice on the ground. I relayed this information back to whoever needed it in flight control, navigation, engineering and such.
I didn’t set out to work there, it sort of just fell into my lap. I had worked as a switchboard operator, mostly taking emergency calls for the local departments. NASA was doing some recruiting and one of my supervisors recommended me. Then before I knew it, there I was, sitting in the big mission control room, watching the big screen with the video feed, and talking to our very own spacemen.
[Here she goes into a tangent about how lovely Armstrong and Aldrin are, with many mentions about Christmas cards from the latter.]
So, one of the first missions I was there for was the first picture of Earth from orbit. Obviously being in communication I wasn’t really necessary, but we all crowded into the control room to see the picture as soon as it was transmitted. Granted, it was the late fifties so we were waiting for quite a while.
We expected cheers when it came through finally. It started that way, at least, then everything quickly died down. There was the Earth, the huge curve with a beautiful crown of light from the sun shining around it. We captured something else too, though. Something that I fear I’ll see again one day.
Behind the Earth, off in the distance, was something… giant. It wasn’t completely clear, but what you could make out was a clearly defined torso, arms outstretched with wicked spines jutting from the outside. Large red eyes blazed against the dark void behind the figure, with a gaping maw underneath opened in a terrifying roar.
The scale of this thing was huge. No way it couldn’t be seen from a normal telescope here on Earth. We aimed our most powerful scope at the coordinates we estimated it to be at and swept the sky, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Took another picture from the satellite and it was gone. As if it had never been there.
To this day we don’t know what the hell it was. We check for it in every photo we take, every sweep of the sky, and it’s only shown up two more times since then. Once in 1979, and once in 1999. I don’t know many people in the agency now, so god knows if it’s been there again. Every time it showed up though, it appeared larger.
[Here she goes on about a few other notable advances in tech. Most irrelevant to what we are discussing now.]
What a lot of people don’t realize is that there were manned space flights before the ones on the history books. Sure, there’s always been the theories about “lost cosmonauts” and such from the Soviets, and there are definitely true cases of that, but we had our share as well.
There was an initial manned space flight in 1960, the Daedalus.
[She noticed the look of shock on my face, apparently, and laughed}
Never read about that one, eh? It was kept tightly under wraps. We didn’t want anyone to know about it until we had them back on the ground successfully, otherwise it may kill morale around the office. No, we kept a small crew, launched the rocket off from an isolated area of Alaska. We did a lot of launches from there, kept the Reds on their toes back in the day.
Anyway, this was a three man crew. There was Bill Zask, James Hanlon, and Terry Duncan. Those three were a tight crew. They were supposed to go up, orbit for twelve hours, then come back down. We would pass it off as a comet if anyone saw, but never got that chance.
Things went south fast. They took off, all was fine until they hit the upper atmosphere. They tried to ease back on the jets, make sure they made it into orbit and didn’t overshoot. Everything went to hell. Jets wouldn’t cut off. We don’t know what caused the malfunction. I heard them, shouting… trying to fix the issue. It didn’t happen. They flew straight through, getting just enough adjustment from the orbital pull to be shot off course and toward the direction of the sun.
[She lets out a sigh here, shaking her head.]
Jets continued firing, taking them even further out. We maintained radio contact with them for twenty hours after takeoff. I spoke with them as fuel ran out, they began drifting into the void, no hope of turning. Never to feel solid ground again.
To this day I don’t know if it was something they really saw or the insanity getting to them as they died and faced their mortality. James was the first to begin raving. Telling us about the bodies floating by the cockpit windows. I tried to clarify what he meant, assuming celestial bodies. I’ll never forget the response from Bill.
“No, Evalyn.” He said to me, “Human bodies. Dozens of them.”
They described the field of bodies. Male and female, old and young. All naked as the day they were born. Bill swore that one smiled at him as he went by. We didn’t have live feed cameras at the time, unfortunately, so we weren’t able to confirm. The way they described it though… I have no doubt they were seeing all of this.
A lot of the transmissions got lost in static. Limits of the tech at the time. The last broadcast we received was Bill. He was raving, still talking about the bodies. Said they were talking to him now. Telling him he could live forever with them. He said he was going to open the emergency hatch. Maybe it was my emotions getting the better of me. Right before he opened it and the static took over, I swear there was another voice.
[She drifts off and stares out of the window next to her. The sun went down an hour ago. Stars were plainly visible, shining in the inky darkness. I asked what the voice said.]
It’s ingrained in my head. I can hear it clear as that moment sixty years ago.
“Come. Be with us. Become as stars and drift immortal.”
[[Gram is tired, says she’s going to bed.]