Looking back at one boy's stellar dream

Steven Hurd was a 12-year-old obsessed with space. Along with his mum and his younger brother Michael, 7, he'd been invited in for VIP treatment at the Honeysuckle Creek Space Tracking Station in May 1972.

He was given the chance to pick up a phone and speak directly to space agency staff in London and Washington via a direct link.

Clockwise: Steven Hurd and his guide dog Sandy, the inside of the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, and on the front page of The Canberra Times from May 13, 1972.

Clockwise: Steven Hurd and his guide dog Sandy, the inside of the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station, and on the front page of The Canberra Times from May 13, 1972.

He looked closely at charts, models and high-tech instruments driving the space communications dish that had, just three years earlier, been the first to receive the pictures of Neil Armstrong's moon walk.

The enthusiastic words of the Melbourne visitor looking around the station were: "this is my paradise''.

There was a poignancy to Steven's visit, which was reported in The Canberra Timesunder the headline 'Looking at one boy's dream'.

Born blind in his left eye, and with only 5 per cent vision in his right, at the time of his visit that vision had dwindled to 2 per cent. Steven was soon about to become completely blind. This visit to the station was a long-held dream and it was being fulfilled in the knowledge it would be one of the last big experiences he would enjoy through sight.

Steven was in sixth grade at the Royal Victorian School for the Blind and was hoping to go to a state high school the next year.

His mum, Patricia, told our reporter she hoped her son would eventually go to university.

We came across this story preparing today's Times Past column for page 2, and wondered: what ever happened to that young boy so enthralled by space?

So we made contact with the now Mr Hurd, still living in Melbourne, who wrote back almost immediately to tell us the decades-old story had "brought back one of the happiest moments of my life".

"Hearing the article almost brought tears to my eyes because I fulfilled my late mother's hopes and studied law at uni. I was also one of the first blind people to complete a secondary education at a state high school,'' he wrote.

Mr Hurd is now a councillor with the City of Boroondara in Melbourne's east. An energetic campaigner for disability access, he's fused that passion with his earliest love of technology and has been working on projects to make autonomous vehicles useful to people with disabilities.

Mr. John Vandenkly, December 19, 1968.

Mr. John Vandenkly, December 19, 1968.

The child's enchantment with space is still just as strong in the man.

Mr Hurd said his council colleagues had asked him about what he would do with his midlife crisis and he replied he still wanted to be an astronaut.

As well as hoping tech billionaire Elon Musk would make his autonomous cars accessible to the blind, Mr Hurd said he dreamed Mr Musk would help him become the first vision-impaired person in space, even though it would mean leaving his beloved guide dog Sandy behind for a few days.

So how about it Mr Musk?

How about sending up into the dark sky a man who has dreamed of it, even though he hasn't been able to see it, since he was a boy?