“Can we settle in another room for the interview Pops?” “Sure,” replied retired Navy Lieutenant Commander John Estes, “step into my office”…….
It was a cramped room in the 1950’s ranch style house that stood on four glorious New England acres. Though the rest of the house, remodeled, re-appointed and meticulously clean and orderly, Pop’s office stood in stark contrast, cluttered, disorderly, not enough filing space for the mounds of paperwork piled wherever a surface allowed, and sometimes where it didn’t. Documents, folders, articles, alike arranged in precarious piles seemingly suspended in time and in want of toppling over. Pops, now 82, with posture and stature of someone 20 yrs his junior, cheerfully took a position at the computer desk, sitting atop a pile of paperwork and a newspaper in his chair. I paused momentarily, looking about for a similar station and upon realizing the corner of the desk was the only other option, decided to stand and occasionally lean against the wall as I listened to history recounted and reclaimed, 50 years in the making.
Lt JG Estes reported as directed to the Naval Space Defense Command. Wait, what? Naval Space Defense Command? Was there such a thing? A quick internet search reveals little can be found on this piece of Naval history in the realm of on-demand libraries. But the Navy roots for today’s Air Force space missions are strong and prove to be a formidable presence in shaping the AF space defense foundation. Its post WWII activities emanating from the NRL found homes squarely cemented in Colorado Springs, far from its battlegroups on the seas and connecting maritime ventures across all oceanic hemispheres. John, “Jack” Estes knew nothing of space defense. He was, after all, a product of Pensacola’s naval flight school; yet in 1966, NSDC welcomed Jack as the next Navy duty officer at the Space Detection and Tracking System (SPADATS) center of operations.