KINGSTON — Forty-seven years after his first space flight, Richard Gordon is still an aeronautics enthusiast.
Holding up a paper rocket he pulled out of his pocket in the Gordon Elementary School main office, Gordon, 84, joked with friends and family about what they thought of the handmade device.
"Do you think this will fly," Gordon asked. Gordon visited his namesake school Oct. 28, which included a school assembly and school photo. He took the time to discuss what is important in life, and to try and inspire future generations.
"Don't be afraid to take risks," he told a room filled with students and staff. "Risks sometimes lead to failure, but so what? The best teacher I ever had was failure.”
A highlight of the visit: Students sang the school song for Gordon. The song starts with: "Once upon a time in our town by the sea / There lived a kid like you and me. / He had a dream and look what he got / He worked so hard, became an astronaut."
Gordon principal Rachel Osborn said Gordon did something that seemed nearly impossible — and set an example for students to follow. "Next time you are doing something that seems really hard and you're not sure you can do it … you can remind yourself, and think about the legacy Gordon has left behind — a legacy of never giving up."
Gordon, who graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1947, is one of 24 people to have traveled to the moon. "It feels like you are a long ways from home," Gordon told the assembly of elementary students.
On Sept. 12, 1966, Gordon served as pilot for the three-day Gemini XI mission which orbited the Earth. But his shining moment in a long line of accomplishments came when he took the command module pilot seat on Apollo 12, from Nov. 14-24, 1969, during the second lunar landing.
In total, Gordon completed two space flights, compiling 315 hours and 53 minutes above the stratosphere.
Gordon's visit to the elementary was the third in last past 20 years — in 1994, when the school was dedicated; and in April 2008.
Gordon was accompanied to the school by fellow NKHS classmates. The class celebrated its 66th reunion last year. The class of 1947 has held a gathering every year since its 60th reunion, North Kitsap graduate Mary Page said.
"We were probably closer than most classes," Page said after the assembly. When Gordon became an astronaut, it was hard to believe a fellow North Kitsap graduate would travel to the moon, Page said.
"It was exciting," she said. "We couldn't believe it was him."