“Zero to Sixty,” a tale of two overage boys on a road trip to the end an era

Posted by By at 27 September, at 08 : 45 AM Print

Oct. 4, 1957. A sound on the radio has an 7-year-old boy entranced. The Russians have put a satellite into space.

“(That sound) would change everything,” videographer Ira Meistrich said in the opening scenes of a documentary about a road trip to Florida to watch the last space shuttle disappear into the clouds.

One thing it changed was the nation’s imperative to get into manned space flight – pronto. Less than four years later, May 5, 1961, Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

“In the early ‘60s, the space program was the adventure of our lifetime,” Meistrich remembered. “I even went to space camp.”

“For four-fifths of my life the United States has had a manned space flight program,” he said. “For half of my life, it has had (a) space shuttle.”

“By the time you see this film, it will have neither.”

But Meistrich had never personally seen a launch, and neither had his friend, Terry Burger.

“There was,” said Meistrich, “only one thing to do.”

Meistrich is from New York. His credits include producing documentaries for CBS and National Geographic, and winning several awards, including an Emmy.

Burger is from Sharon, Pa., but when he was 7, his family moved to Athens, Ga. where his experiences included working in a funeral home and driving a cement mixer. At 35, he moved to Gettysburg, Pa., initially thinking he would land a job driving a cement truck. Instead, he was hired by the Gettysburg Times, the local newspaper, as a reporter.

In 1998, Meistrich found himself in Gettysburg, filming a documentary connecting 1863 Gettysburg with the modern version of the town. It seemed like everywhere he went, Burger-the-reporter was standing in the way. The two became fast friends.

Which is why, one day in early 2011, Meistrich called Burger to suggest they go to Cape Canaveral to see a space launch.

Burger, thought it sounded like being a 19-year-old on a road trip; which he had not done when he was 19. They loaded up Burger’s green 1997 Oldsmobile Regency – “The motor runs good, but the transmission slips after a few hours driving,” Burger said – and headed out.

“Two vintage guys in a vintage car to see a vintage space shuttle get launched into the ultimate vintage – space,” Burger commented.

What follows is a feature length film starring the two 60-somethings on a ‘60s road trip to witness an event that actually is visible for only 60 frames of video be3fore it disappeared into the clouds and the history books. Along the way, vignettes of a half-century of manned space program punctuate the narration.

The film is slated to debut Oct. 17 at Gettysburg’s Majestic Theater. The viewing will be open to the public, and admission will be free. For anyone who has wished to witness a space launch, or yearned for a road trip, this is the opportunity to sit back, grab the imaginary steering wheel, and go for it.

Shuttle “Atlantis” launched July 8, 2011. In the early morning hours of July 21, 2011, it touched down at Kennedy Space Center (known to a previous generation as Cape Canaveral), ending, at least for the foreseeable future, the United States’ foray into manned space flight.

NASA plans no more manned space launches.

“Now we’re hiring the Russians to take us up there,” Burger said of the end of an era that began with a race to beat the Russians to the moon.

“Zero to Sixty” may not make you want to restart the program, but it will make you glad you were part of the final flight.

Photo by Ira Meistrich


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This post was written by:
- who has written 169 posts for Rock The Capital
John Messeder is an award winning journalist with more than 35 years experience writing about education, environment and local government issues. He has lived in Maine, Florida, California and Alaska, and, by temporary turns, numerous places in between. John also is an accomplished photographer, and avid hiker, conservationist, oral history buff, and author of several books he has not yet got 'round to writing. He lives in Adams County, Pa., just over a hill from Gettysburg, with his wife and Golden Retriever. He may be contacted at john@JohnMesseder.com - Email jmesseder

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