This past weekend we celebrated the historic moon walk, and success of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. It was one of those moments in time that remain engraved in ones memory, as clear as the day it happened.
I was a 10 year old kid on a family vacation. My brave parents bundled up six kids in a station wagon, attached a pop-up camper and headed westward. Our goal was the same as many Midwest families: Yellowstone. But the timing of this particular vacation overlapped a significant historic event, the moon landing!
Not to worry! My parents had the good sense to plan ahead and find a campground with a working TV.
Being only 10, I wasn’t really sure what was happening, but I could tell it was big. All the campers headed to the building, filling the tiny room. When I realized what I was about to witness I was stunned. My world just got a whole lot bigger.
I stared at the TV so hard I thought I’d get sucked up into it. I remember it all; those historic first words, that little hop they had to do to get to the surface, everything. The whole world watched as Neil Armstrong took that first step. We actually managed to unite the planet, even if only for a few short moments. I will always be grateful to my parents for making sure we witnessed this historic event.
The moon changed forever for me that night. It was no longer just a beautiful addition to our night sky. It had become a place that people had visited. It had become a place that someone had actually reached out and touched. That fact still takes my breath away.
I still am stunned at the beauty of space, what we’ve seen and discovered since then. From planet hunting, visiting asteroids, looking back at Earth from Saturn and roving around Mars, we’ve done some pretty amazing things!
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and comments lately about the Chinese probe and rover landing on the moon. Much of the rhetoric is extremely supportive, congratulating China for a tremendous achievement. We should all recognize it for what it is – not just an accomplishment for the Chinese, but an accomplishment by us all.
I watched Apollo 11 lift off the pad back in 1969. At the time, it actually occurred to me that there should be a flag symbolizing humankind next to the U.S. flag on the side of that Saturn 5 rocket. I wanted to see a symbol that said, “Hey! This rocket isn’t just from the United States – it’s from the whole human race!”
I’ve thought about this often over the years and decided that it would take more than a few email suggestions from me to make that Human Race Flag happen.
Who’s going to design and approve the Human Race Flag? And after all this time, who would be the first to put this emblem on their rocket? Would the Chinese fly the Human Race Flag if it was designed in the United States? Or would we use their design? No.
I’m thinking it’s going to take a threat to our collective race, like an impacting meteorite or an invasion from outer space, to get us to drop our borders and work together. Just like in the movie Independence Day. Until then, I guess we’ll have to wait until we collectively join the United Federation of Planets and dispense with our homegrown flags all together.
I’ll always remember watching Neil Armstrong descend the ladder of the Eagle.
It was an event that brought men to tears and made people all over the world celebrate. The world has lost a great American hero, and National treasure. We love you Neil, and you will be sadly missed. We will never forget you.
As you may know (if you read my bio), I grew up with the Apollo missions. My dad was a big influence there, following all the missions. He collected photos and other memorabilia. For the Apollo 17 mission, he bought the mission guide from NASA. While going through some old boxes after he died, I found the guide and took it home.
In 2006 Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmidt was to make an appearance at an Astronomical League convention. He was to be the keynote speaker. I couldn’t wait! I signed up as soon as the registration form became available. I bought tickets for my family, hoping that someday they’d appreciate what an honor it was to meet one of only 12 men to have walked on the moon.
I immediately thought about the mission guide. I thought it would be a nice tribute to my dad’s love of Apollo to get an autograph.
During the evening meal, before the appearance of Jack Schmidt, I was so excited. I didn’t know if we’d have the chance to meet him or if he would be signing autographs. He gave his talk about mining the moon, an idea I’m not on board with, but it was very interesting.
After the talk I was pleased to hear that he would meet with people and sign a copy of his book. I didn’t buy the book, but was hopeful that he would sign the guide. When I got to the front of the line I showed him the guide. He very politely declined to sign it, but told me there was a place I could send it on the Internet for signing.
I was disappointed, but I understood. The mission guide sits unsigned on my bookshelf. It means too much to me to risk sending it through the mail. I was happy with the meeting. Though I didn’t get my autograph, I did get a handshake, a picture and a big check mark on my bucket list!