On the day Americans got word of the death of the nation's first space hero, the government released a memo saying President John F. Kennedy had worried about televising Alan Shepard's launch aboard a Mercury spacecraft.
He feared an accident would be traumatic for the public to see.As it turned out, the launch was a success. Shepard lived on and even walked on the moon before his death Tuesday - 37 years after he became the first American in space.
"He is afraid of the reaction of the public in case there is a mishap in the firing (of the rocket)," Kennedy's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, recorded in her diary on May 1, 1961.
Lincoln's diary was included in 60,000 pages of documents made public Wednesday by the archives and the Assassination Records Review Board, which is charged with amassing documents that could shed light on Kennedy's Nov. 22, 1963, assassination.
Her diary recounts conversations between Kennedy and James Webb, then director of the space agency. "Webb assured him that everything has been done that can be done to assure the success of the venture," she wrote. "The astronaut has several escape routes."
Nonetheless, Kennedy and Webb discussed whether anything could be done to "play down the publicity on this venture."
Lincoln's diaries offer other behind-the-scenes glimpses of Kennedy's political and personal life.
His Bell System credit card was stuffed into the back of one folder.
Lincoln writes how she did paperwork poolside with the president in December 1962 as a manicurist "fixed his nails (toes and fingers)." During the 1960 presidential primaries, Kennedy asked Lincoln to buy him six pair of flannel pajamas, "which he wanted for his trip to Wisconsin." On the night before the inauguration it snowed so hard in Washington that she stayed over at the Kennedys' Georgetown home. "While I was eating my breakfast, the president was reading his (inaugural) speech in the bathtub," she wrote.
The diaries written by Lincoln, who died in 1995, also carry somber undertones.
Two and a half years before his assassination, Kennedy was thinking of his mortality. On a flight back from Europe, following Kennedy's unsuccessful summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrush-chev, Lincoln says, a slip of paper fell to the floor.
"I picked it up and in his own handwriting were these words: `I know that there is a god and I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I am ready.' "