‘A universal response’

Former astronaut Gerald Carr to speak in Guilford about how his experience in space made him appreciate the fragility of the earth

GUILFORD — When astronaut Gerald P. Carr looked down at a receding Earth from his spacecraft, bound for Skylab, the first thing that struck him was the scale of the pollution he saw being perpetually created far below.

Oil fires burned, and rivers carried red silt from deforested areas well out into the open ocean, and all within a very thin envelope of atmosphere. Upon returning, he began gathering aerial images that illustrated what he had witnessed. He knew he had to share this, far and wide.

Carr, who has logged more than 8,000 flying hours with the United States Marine Corps and NASA, lives in Manchester with his wife, Patricia L. Musick, a studio artist. He will discuss his photographs of our fragile world, their implications for our future, and his ongoing journey in a talk on Sunday April 21, at 10 a.m., at an Earth Day sabbath at the Guilford Community Church, 38 Church Dr.

“My experience has shown that almost every astronaut in space has been struck by the same concern for taking care of the Earth,” Carr said in a recent interview.

According to his NASA biography, Carr began his military career in 1949 with the Navy, and in 1950 was appointed a midshipman and enrolled in the University of Southern California. Upon graduation in 1954, he received his commission and reported to the U.S. Marine Corps Officers' Basic School at Quantico, Va., where he received flight training.

After postgraduate training, he served with Marine All-Weather-Fighter-Squadron 122, from 1962 to 1965, piloting the F-8 Crusader in the United States and the Far East.

He was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crews and as CAPCOM for the Apollo 8 and 12 flights, and was involved in the development and testing of the lunar roving vehicle, which was used on the lunar surface by Apollo flight crews.

Later, in 1966, he was recruited to join the NASA astronaut program, where he spent 7 {½} years working on the Apollo program in the design and engineering of the lunar module and rover. In 1973, Carr piloted the Skylab 4 mission, which placed the third and final lineup of crew onto the first American space station in orbit around the Earth.

After his retirement from NASA in 1977, Carr spent several years working for a Texas-based engineering firm before moving to Vermont in 1984 and founding CAMUS Inc., an engineering firm subcontracted by Boeing to be part of the design team for the International Space Station.

It was in 1990, though, when Carr and his wife were attending a U.N. convention for retired astronauts from around the world that he realized nearly all of his peers shared a passion for protecting the environment.

“When it was all finished I got down from the stage and walked over to my wife [who had been listening to the foreign speakers via live translation] and she said that all the speakers had said the same thing, even using many of the same words,” Carr said.

“That was a real shock to both of us, and I have dubbed it 'the idea of universal response' or 'universal reception.' The fact that so many cultures and languages use the same words has a rather interesting connotation to us,” he said.

From this experience, the two created an art exhibition called Our Fragile Home, now on tour around the Northeast.

The exhibit blends the natural and sculptural worlds in a series of 19 pieces based on those profound words in any language: sustain, protect, balance, harmony, nurture, fragile, steward, and beauty.

Carr is speaking at the invitation of the Rev. Lise Sparrow, pastor of the Guilford Community Church, following a referral from a fellow reverend at the United Church of Christ in Castelton.

According to Sparrow, at the core of what Carr talks about is his sense of reverence for “the miracle that something supports our planet.”

“If we touch this reverence, there's probably something we can do in our daily lives. It's not to proscribe a particular action for each of us, but if we just treat each other with respect, good things will come of it,” she said.

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