When Colorado native John Michael Lounge was on Earth, he flew a jet to work. When he left Earth, he flew on a rocket ship as an astronaut in NASA’s space shuttle program.
On Saturday, Lucinda Lounge, his sister and an Ignacio resident, will share stories about Mike’s career at Ignacio Community Library, hoping to encourage the community to “dream big.”
Lucinda has been giving her space program presentation for 30 years. This year, it’s part of Ignacio Community Library’s summer reading program, “A Universe of Stories,” and will take place on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. She hopes her stories will educate and inspire.
Kids in smaller communities tend to think that “big dreams are for somebody else,” Lucinda said. “I think that kids need to, for as long as possible, think that they can do anything they want to do.”
During the free event at 11 a.m., Lucinda will talk about the space program and share her “insider” stories about Mike’s career.
“We’re really excited,” said library Director Marcia Vining. The presentation is unique in the area, and she hopes it will remind community members of how many career options are available, even in a small town.
That’s the main message, Lucinda said, that even kids who grow up in small towns can accomplish their dreams.
The Lounges grew up in a town similar to Ignacio, in Burlington, population 3,000, east of Denver close to the Kansas border. The family often lived paycheck to paycheck, Lucinda said.
“Ignacio can be remote,” Vining said. “Especially for kids, anything we can bring that opens up a bigger world for them ... is really crucial.”
After earning a graduate degree in astrogeophysics and service in the Navy, Mike became a payload specialist for NASA. There, he flew a jet from Houston to Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a pilot trainer. In 1980, he became an astronaut and went on space shuttle missions in 1985, 1988 and 1990, spending more than 482 hours in space.
In 1991, he retired as an astronaut. He died in 2011 from an aggressive skin cancer.
Mike wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a 13-year-old Boy Scout making copper radios, Lucinda said. She remembers him and his friends in their pup tents at Boy Scouts camp winding copper wire around a cylinder to pick up a radio signal. The y were able to tap in to the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, that Russia launched in 1957. At that point, Lucinda said, Mike set his life goal and never looked back.
His journey, however, wasn’t easy. When he applied for the Air Force, he wasn’t accepted. When he applied to be part of the first shuttle class, he was 26th out of 25 accepted applicants.
But Mike Lounge’s determination carried him through. Lucinda hopes Ignacio youths will be inspired by his determination.
“He just never allowed a Plan B,” she said.