“Just Our Dads”

They were just our dads.

– Diane Gordon Briggs (daughter of Richard F. Gordon: Gemini 11, Apollo 12). 2021. (Podcast for Emory Rose MARBL.)

Diane Gordon (Briggs) lived across the street from me in Nassau Bay, where we grew up together as daughters of astronauts who flew on Gemini and Apollo missions. Our fathers were selected into Group 3 of the NASA astronauts in 1963. They trained together for many years, each “backing up” the other for different missions. The photo above is the Gemini 8 “gag” photo (Credit: NASA): seated, prime crew: Dave Scott and Neil Armstrong; standing, back-up crew: Dick Gordon and Pete Conrad. (Diane’s father, Richard F. Gordon, flew on Gemini 11 and Apollo 12. He was back-up to my father on Gemini 8, Apollo 9 and Apollo 15. My father was on the back-up crew for Apollo 12.)

I reconnected with Diane in 2018, and she graciously agreed to be “interviewed” by me for the Emory Rose Library Podcast. Listen to us talk about our days in Nassau Bay, including our dads, our moms, corvettes, and the press! Link to podcast: https://rose-commcon.transistor.fm/s2/3

Wives of the Apollo 9 crew at Splashdown Party (1969). L to R (in lettered tops): Clare Schweickart, Lurton Scott, Pat McDivitt. Hosted by Barbara Gordon (behind Clare and Lurton). Photo from Anne Lurton Scott Papers. Photo Credit: LIFE magazine.
Apollo 12 Crew photo with their corvettes (1969). L to R: Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, Al Bean. Photo in collection of Diane Gordon Briggs. Photo credit: Chysler/NASA/LIFE magazine.

Below are a few excerpts from our conversation and a few more photos from our collections.

Excerpts from the Podcast

Tracy: I like that you bring up the fact that he [Dick Gordon, Diane’s father] was a test pilot first; most of the guys were, right? So actually, our moms were used to quite an unusual type of work that their husbands [did before they joined NASA].

Diane: Yes, what our moms went through — I’m not sure most people really understand how dangerous test pilot life was – what that was like for the women, the wives. I mean, I can remember my mom sharing with me, much later, that she went to 20 funerals [test pilots] in one year. It was high risk to say the least. And so is the space program. And I think that was something I didn’t really think about. It just felt very normal for you and me. And looking back on it is when I realized how unique and unusual our childhoods really were.

Astronaut Richard Gordon and his family in front yard of house (1969).
Apollo 12 Astronaut Richard Gordon, his wife Barbara, and their children: Carleen, Larry, Ricky, Diane, Jimmy, and Tommy – and bulldog Bridget. (1969) Photo: NASA.

Tracy: Yeah, I think that is common with a lot of us. We grew up in — you think it’s normal because that’s what you grow up with, right? So, tell me a little more about what life was like that felt ordinary to us, but that other people would think was not-so-ordinary?

Diane: Well, I think probably the first thing that comes to my mind is seeing your dads on TV being interviewed. I think also of the times that we were followed by the media and taken pictures. I mean, my first memory was Gemini 11 and being outside and reporters and photographers taking pictures, we had a contract with LIFE Magazine. They took a lot of photos of the life of astronauts and their families. So, I was young and so that seemed very normal. And I acted probably a little too normal, and probably ruined a lot of images that people had of the perfect family because I had four brothers to keep up with. And so, I would do all kinds of shenanigans and I talked you into a few of them. And I think as you had said in a story you wrote and you shared with me recently, I think we spent a lot of our childhood apologizing for our antics for sure. 

Diane Gordon hiding behind Tracy Scott to avoid photographers at the bus-stop during the Apollo 12 mission. Her father, Dick Gordon, was Command Module Pilot on Apollo 12. (1969) Photos in private collection of Diane Gordon Briggs.

Tracy: Yeah, it was just fun as a kid. Did you feel like that?

Diane: Oh, it was fun. And the way we all lived so close together. Your back driveway faced my back driveway. So, we were at each other’s houses all the time. And next door to us were the McDivitts, who flew Apollo 9. Michael Collins was kind of caddy-corner to our house. Your mom was very close to Mrs. Collins also. And down the street were the Cernans. Down from there were the Schweickarts and the Beans. I mean, we grew up with that.

My father (Dave Scott) with his Apollo 15 Corvette, at home in Nassua Bay, (1971). The Gordons’ house is across the street behind him. Photo credit: Tracy L. Scott.

And another thing we grew up with that, well, that was unusual, was that we would have bus tours that would come through our neighborhood…Because [the public] could go to Mission Control NASA, where our dads would sometimes work, and then [they] could take a tour there and then a tour through the [astronaut] neighborhoods. And so, you and I would be playing outside a lot, and they would be driving by. And I think we stuck our tongue out at many of the buses that came by — much to our mother’s horror for sure….

Click on the photo below for the full podcast, or use this url: https://rose-commcon.transistor.fm/s2/3

Click on this photo for the podcast: Tracy Scott interviews fellow astronaut kid Diane Gordon Briggs on Emory Rose MARBL Podcast.