As part of our series Inspired Lives, we’ve hearing this summer from notable people who have taken inspiration from their time in New England. This week, we’re hearing from a New Englander who took his inspiration from the skies- astronaut Jerry Carr. A childhood fascination with airplanes led to a career as a military pilot, and then eventually, as the commander for Skylab 4, the third and final manned visit to the orbiting workshop. Skylab, the longest flight in history of space exploration completing 1,214 revolutions of the Earth, launched November 16, 1973 and ended February 8, 1974. During this mission the crew successfully completed 56 experiments, 26 science demonstrations, 15 subsystem-detailed objectives and 13 student investigations. Colonel Carr never really thought he would be selected by NASA to become an astronaut- but he and 18 others made the cut- after beating out 8,700 other applicants.
Carr was named head of the design support group in the astronaut office in 1977, making him responsible for providing crew support involving testing, system design and crew support.
From February 1974 to March 1978, Carr and his Skylab teammates shared the world record for time in space of 2,017 hours, 15 minutes, 32 seconds.
Carr was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.
JERRY CARR: Well, on the 1st of April of 1966, I had a meeting in Los Angeles. The unit I was working with at the time was buying a new radar system. We were having what is called a critical design review. That is, there were about 25 of us engineers in this conference room and I was the chairman of the review, and we were going through all of the drawings and the nitty-gritty having to do with this radar system.
About halfway through our program, a young lady came in from the reception area and she said, “Major Carr, there is a Captain Shepard on the phone who would like to speak with you, and he says it’s important.” Well, I had a young captain working for me named Captain Bill Shepard, and I was wondering why in the world Bill was calling me at a time like this, because he knew this was an important meeting. I decided to go ahead and take it anyway, because since he knew, it probably was important. So I picked up the phone, identified myself, and the voice on the other end of the line said, “Jerry, this is Alan Shepard at the Manned Space Flight Center in Houston, and I wanted to inform you that you’ve been selected to be one of the 19 new astronauts. Will you accept the duty?” I said, “Well yes, of course, I would be happy to. I’m delighted.” And he said, “But there’s just one thing; there won’t be a press conference release on this for two days, so you’ll have to keep this under your hat. You can tell your wife, but please don’t tell anybody else.”
Well, after I hung up, I looked around and everybody was looking at me, and I must have looked pretty silly, with a silly expression on my face and probably floating up out of my chair. I had assured him I wouldn’t say a word, so I didn’t say a word and we went ahead with the meeting and, quite frankly, I don’t remember anything else that happened that afternoon.