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Logic beyond gravity's pull 


To borrow a phrase from their own lingo, the Astronaut Hall of Fame "screwed the pooch" when it decided not to induct Roger Chaffee along with other Apollo astronauts. The reason -- according to the astronauts' creed -- is that he was never really an astronaut. In the macho world of "The Right Stuff," you become one only by going into space. Chaffee merely died trying. Many have cried foul, especially since his fellow victims in the fire that engulfed the Apollo 1 cockpit, Gus Grissom and Ed White, were inducted. Both previously had traveled in space. But there are bigger issues at work here. The would-be museum is run by the Mercury 7 Foundation. That's why the Hall focuses so heavily on the Mercury astronauts and gives passing glances to those who followed. That's why you have more attention paid to the likes of Scott Carpenter than Jim Lovell or Neil Armstrong. In fact, the Hall verges on being a Mercury shrine. This is the ultimate shame. Cold War politics created the myth of the Mercury astronauts who, though brave and talented, were not the equal of their Gemini and Apollo brethren. Having the Mercury foundation run the hall is akin to turning the baseball hall over to the Cleveland Indians. Look, here's the huge display on Bob Feller! Babe Ruth? Over there in the unlit corner. Actually baseball has a better record. It faced a similar problem with regard to Negro League stars such as Josh Gibson -- men who, technically, were never major-leaguers. But lobbying by the likes of Hall member Ted Williams saw those players inducted on an equal footing. After all, as with Chaffee, the reasons that kept them out were beyond their control. It's embarrasing that baseball, the most backward of all major sports, has its head on straighter than America's space "heroes." So what if Chaffee doesn't deserve to be in the astronaut hall? He deserves someplace much better.

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