The Virtual Astronaut
My name is Jon Berkemeyer, and I love space and the history of manned spaceflight. I was born in 1979 well after the Apollo era’s golden years and before the Space Shuttle even left the ground. Sadly the first time spaceflight came into my collective conciseness was on January 28th, 1986 with the Shuttle Challenger disaster. I was 6 years old and in the first grade. This was truly the first “Where were you moment?” in my life. For me, I was in Mrs. Alvarez’s first grade class, during circle time when we heard the news. At the time I didn’t even know what the Space Shuttle was, or what it did. I’m a curious person by nature and have to know the what’s and why’s of a topic. Why did we have a Space Shuttle, what did it do? Who were these people called astronauts and why do they go to space? Instead of Challenger pushing me away, I was drawn to the space program. I had to know more about it. From that moment on, I learned all that I could. I am probably one of the few children who sat down and read the Rogers Commission report on the shuttle disaster. I only understood a fraction of it at the time, but it became one of the corner stones of my interest in space flight. That same copy is still in my book case almost 28 years later.
From there my fascination moved on from the shuttle program to the history of the space race and the moon shots. I read and re-read the stories of Apollo, Gemini, Mercury. The stories of Armstrong, Conrad and Shepard. These men and their fellow astronauts became my heroes. I wanted to be one of them.
Unfortunately this was not to be. I was born with a form of dwarfism that left me a little shy of the minimum height requirement (By about a foot). Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I came within two inches of my goal. But it would not be in the cards for me. So I decided to take my passion for what I loved so much and begin to chronicle it. This is why I consider it a personal journey. I hope you enjoy the ride along with me.
If you have questions or comments about the site or suggestions for articles please feel free to email me.