When Colorado native John Michael “Mike” 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 Lounge’s career at Ignacio Community Library, hoping to encourage the community to “dream big.”
Lucinda Lounge 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. Lounge hopes her stories will educate and inspire.
Kids in smaller communities tend to think that “big dreams are for somebody else,” Lounge 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. at the library, Lucinda Lounge will talk about the space program and share her “insider” stories about Mike Lounge’s career.
“We’re really excited,” said Marcia Vining, library director. The presentation is unusual in the area, and she hopes it will remind community members of how many career options they have.
One main message is that even kids who grow up in small towns can accomplish their dreams, Lounge said. The Lounges grew up in a town similar to Ignacio. About 3,000 people lived in their hometown of Burlington, Colorado, and even the school systems were similar. The family often lived paycheck-to-paycheck, she 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 time in the Navy, Mike Lounge became a payload specialist for NASA. There, he flew a jet from Houston to Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a pilot trainer. In 1980, he finally became an astronaut and went on space shuttle missions in 1985, 1988 and 1990, spending over 482 hours in space. In 1991, he retired as an astronaut; he died in 2011 from an aggressive skin cancer.
Lucinda Lounge said that Mike wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a 13-year-old Boy Scout making copper radios. Lucinda imagined him and his friends in their pup tents at Boy Scout camp, winding copper wire around a cylinder to pick up a radio signal. The signal they caught was the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, that Russia launched in 1957. At that point, Mike set his goal and never looked back.
Mike’s journey wasn’t always easy. When he applied for the Air Force, he didn’t make it in. When he applied to be part of the first shuttle class, he was 26th out of 25 accepted applicants. But his determination carried him through. She hopes Ignacio youths will be inspired by his determination.
“He just never allowed a plan B,” she said.