Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Al Chop's True Confessions: Part 1 of 2

Some 10 years had passed since receiving my first and only two letters from Al Chop, and it really felt a bit strange to realize that my high school graduation, four Air Force years and a continuing college education had taken up space in the meantime. Yet, here I was again, searching for Al. Probably still with NASA, I thought, and off went the new inquiry.

But NASA kindly forwarded my letter to Al Chop at his new address. Not only had Al left NASA, he and his wife had moved to the state of Washington, where he now worked for the Atomic Energy Commission (see the two letters shown here). Of considerable interest to me, because I vividly remember the day when the U.S. lost three astronauts in an unspeakably tragic accident and fire on the ground, Al and other NASA personnel had been so strongly affected by the Apollo spacecraft disaster that he felt he had to do more. Ultimately, Chop relinquished his routine public affairs position and turned his talents to motivating NASA personnel, and eventually undertook the same duties on behalf of nuclear energy personnel, whose morale suffered because of the public's negative attitude about nuclear technology. Al sent along a couple of morale-boosting decals (see), brochures and other publicity information in an AEC envelope (shown), and I've taken the liberty of scanning a page from the industry's newsletter, "Awareness," which clearly mentions Al Chop in his position as its editorial manager. His role in starting the "Snoopy the Astronaut" program at NASA is a story in itself because he literally had to visit "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz at home to gain permission for use of the popular doghouse-piloting canine's likeness.

With his November 11, 1975 letter, Chop also enclosed five single-spaced typed pages of responses to my list of questions, and this is a fascinating document. I'll post the whole thing in the next entry.