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The TV Voice of the Spaceflight: Lieutenant Colonel John "Shorty" Powers

Feb. 20, 1962 - One of the voices most frequently heard around the world today was that of a 5-foot-6, 39-year-old former bomber pilot known to friends as Shorty. Shorty is Lieut. Col. John A. Powers (pictured to Col. Glenn’s left), on loan from the Air Force to NASA as information officer for the Mercury astronaut program. It was his voice that came from the Mercury control center at Cape Canaveral with reports on the space flight of Lieut. Col. John Glenn, Jr. Colonel Powers performed the same duty during the earlier, suborbital flights of Comdr. Alan B. Shepard Jr. and Capt. Virgil Grissom. In the Shepard flight, Colonel Powers made the expression, “A-O.K.” a by-word. It has since been widely copied to describe a first-class job. It also made Colonel Powers known to the public. He became better known for a less felicitous response to a reporter who phoned him the night that Maj. Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union went into orbit. “It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, you jerk; we’re all asleep here,” Colonel Powers replied. A brief item about this remark, printed widely, led to critical questioning whether this country’s space program was asleep. Colonel Powers later apologized and said: “Sometimes I lose my temper and give sharp answers.” The Korean War veteran lived down the incident and maintained his reputation as an officer dedicated to duty.

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