Warning… veering off topic…
On a humid July morning 40 years ago today, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin climbed aboard the most dangerous vehicle man had ever built, on a voyage to the moon.
I was two and half years old. I remember that day, or at least have convinced myself that I remember it, sitting in front of an old black and white television watching a streak of light hurtle towards the stars.
Like most boys growing up, I was fascinated by all things space and dinosaurs. While interest in the Jurassic and Cretaceous eventually faded, the love of space and space travel, did not. Astronomy books, science-fiction novels, movies, I couldn’t get enough. I was a certified space geek.
When I went off to college I decided to study aerospace engineering, with the dream of working one day for NASA or JPL, but soon realized I had little of the prerequisite discipline necessary for that field of study, ie the math. And there was a lot of it. So I switched to Journalism, which had only slightly more math than English. But my interest in all things space never waned.
Barely a year into my studies I watched in horror as the shuttle Challenger exploded into a million pieces across the Atlantic. I attended no class that day, not even the Astronomy elective I was taking. I remember President Reagan’s moving tribute later that same evening: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God…”
There have certainly been other triumphs and disasters since, but for me, none quite so much like the day humankind took their first steps on the moon.
In honor of 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, the JFK Library and Museum explores the mission in extraordinary detail at WeChooseTheMoon.com. The site tracks the mission in realtime as it happened, creating a thoroughly immersive and cool experience. Be sure to check it out.
There are also some beautiful, and some rarely seen photographs from before, during and after the mission at The Big Picture: Remembering Apollo 11.
Looking back over these past 4 decades as a man in his early 40s, I had hoped by now we would have at least planted a flag, any flag, in the red sands of Mars. But unfortunately, no. In fact it’s been 37 years since we last walked the on the face of the moon. And now, as I approach middle age, it seems unlikely that either will happen, or happen again, in my lifetime.
But I am a space geek. And I am hopeful.
Video of that memorable launch and landing below.