Two of NASA’s most celebrated astronauts, Captain Eugene Cernan and General Tom Stafford, were joined by explorer Wong How Man and OMEGA president Stephen Urquhart at the OMEGA Pavilion on the Olympic Green in Beijing on 18 August 2008. Also on hand was Swiss astronaut Claude Nicolier.
OMEGA president Urquhart welcomed the adventurers and reminded the audience and members of the media that the OMEGA Speedmaster has been a part of every NASA manned space mission and is still the only watch ever to have been worn on the moon. Pointing out that pioneering spirit is a core OMEGA value, he said the company is proud of its association with explorers, both lunar and terrestrial.
Captain Cernan left his mark on history with three missions in space. He was the pilot of Gemini IX and the lunar module pilot of Apollo X. As the commander of Apollo XVII, he holds the distinction of having been the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.
Asked by moderator Lynn Ding if he would like to return to the moon, Cernan answered wryly, “If you’ll go with me.” He suggested to the audience, “If you ever have a chance to go to the moon, take your camera!”
Cernan also talked about the time he was given an opportunity to drive OMEGA’s Moon Rover on the Great Wall and said he was delighted to be back in a country which has so many happy associations for him.
General Stafford was a member of the crew on four NASA missions. He piloted Gemini VI during the first rendezvous in space and he teamed up with Cernan when he commanded Gemini IX and Apollo X. General Stafford logged his fourth space flight commanding the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a joint space flight culminating in the first meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet Cosmonauts.
Stafford said that he feels privileged to be one of the only people in the world ever to have gazed at Earth from the moon. Each of his four space missions left him with a profound sense of pride and accomplishment.
The astronauts shared the stage with Wong, who was described by TIME Magazine as “China’s most accomplished living explorer”. In June of this year, he found the source of the Yellow River (he had already identified the source of the Yangtze River). He pointed out that he and the astronauts share the kind of motivation which is driven by an innate curiosity about the world around (and above) them.
Swiss astronaut Nicolier described how OMEGA has always been associated with adventure and exploration – he is currently involved with the OMEGA-supported Solar Impulse project with its aim of circumnavigating the globe in an airplane powered only by the sun. “I’m here for three reasons,” he said. “I love the city of Beijing. I am Swiss, something I share with OMEGA. And I am an astronaut,” pointing out that space travellers are still part of a small, close fraternity.
Cernan and Stafford said that they hope to see some of the Olympic sporting events while they’re in Beijing. When asked which sports were of particular interest, Gene Cernan drew loud applause from the audience when he said, “Ladies’ beach volleyball!”
The OMEGA Pavilion, located on the Olympic Green close to the National (“Bird’s Nest) Stadium and the Aquatic Centre (the “Water Cube”) is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. throughout the Olympic Games.
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