I’ve had the honor to meet Dr. Owen Garriott a few times. However, our first encounter was less than stellar on my account. I was the Membership Coordinator for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. We had a quarterly newsletter that we mailed to each member called Quest that included an article or two, member events and a closeup photo of a mysterious artifact.
Shortly after one of the issues mailed, I got a phone call. I answered with the standard greeting, and this semi-frustrated voice on the other end says “Hi, I’m a member and I have a question about the mystery artifact photo”. He goes on to say that he isn’t interested in winning the photo contest (a free 1-year extension of membership) but he thinks he knows what it is and he doesn’t want to wait until the next quarter when the answer comes out. I laugh and agree to verify his answer knowing that this was one of the hardest photos I had ever published. He quickly blurted out, “is it an Omega Speedmaster Professional watch” and to my surprise, he hit the nail on the head. I laughed and said something to the effect of yes and how on Earth did you know that? His reply was short and simple, “well I’m a former astronaut”.
I had no idea that Owen was a member. Needless to say, I immediately went back and checked the list 1200 members and found two other former astronauts. He came to a few of the after-hours member events at the center. He never expected to have attention called to him and he blended in with everyone else. However, I recall one time, when the Skylab mock-up was in the old main museum, he had turned into a museum guide, standing in the doorway of the mock-up pointing out all the features of his former Skylab home to anyone that was interested in hearing his stories. By the end of the evening, he had drawn quite a crowd.
When I visit the Skylab mock-up at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, I almost always think back to that first phone call. Dr. Garriott was a good guy and one of the most humble people I have ever met. I will always be thankful for the times I got to interact with him.
Wes is a two time Space Camp graduate and space enthusiast with a love of North Alabama. When he isn't busy being a dad he enjoys travel, volunteering and working his life away. All comments are my own.