scholars and rogues

The First Step

apollo11-lifemagazineForty years ago today, Apollo 11 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, heading for the moon. The astronauts would safely achieve orbit and, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong would take his famous “giant leap for mankind.”

I was a month old when the moon landing took place. Still, I can claim–albeit by technicality–that I was one of the millions of Americans who watched the moon landing on television. Sure, I was only a month old, but I still saw it.

I claim that moment for myself because the moon landing always strikes me as such a profound triumph of man’s will to redefine what is possible in this world (or, in this case, beyond our world). When I watch replays of Walter Cronkite anchoring the telecast of the moon landing, and he takes off his glasses and rubs his hands and can manage only to muster a “whew!” I can still feel Cronkite’s amazement. I can still feel my own amazement—and, yes, I still get choked up.

At a time when America frequently feels like it takes a step backwards for every step it takes forward, it’s nice to remember that we’re capable of giant leaps.

11 replies »

  1. Given the chance to go into space, I’d say “yes” in a heartbeat. My wife is not necessarily thrilled by this, but given the fact that the probability of my being given said chance is microscopically above 0, she’s not exactly worried.

    At least I get to work somewhere that the stuff I build will get into space.

  2. And psychological stress, changes in circadian rhythm, anemia. Not to mention that bacteria seem to have increased resistance to antibiotics, dead space and humidity on your space craft will probably be nice places for nasty bugs to grow. And, of course, Marvin the Martian. 🙂

  3. I lived in the UK where the live TV scheduled for prime time in the US showed in the middle of the night. I was very little but my parents said I could stay up and watch the landing, even though they went to bed.
    I did see it and remember it. I don’t remember Cronkite, I am not sure if he was even on in the UK, but I do remember the first moon walk. Seeing a man bounce around in low gravity, bouncing like the Michelin man.
    We have been there, done that, no need to go back. Send a probe like we did on mars. One that can work for years sending back useful data. We don’t need to send a man again because we are much better at making intelligent, semi-autonomous, self propelled space ships, probes and landers. They are cheaper, don’t need to take a crap, don’t need a lot of food, water and oxygen, and don’t want to come back.

    Heck we are even fighting real time wars with UAV’s so there is no reason we can’t explore a moon with roving bots. Sending men to the moon, before we had fast small computers and high res digital cameras, was incredible. Now we should send bots that not only can get there for a lot less money and energy, but that can put in many years of useful work!

  4. Oh, gods. Vogon poetry might be the one thing that might keep me from the moon. The last thing I need is for my spleen reach through my nostril to throttle me to death. Of course, I think they are running NASA now, so that might be a problem.

  5. Uh….Why describe the giant leap as “infamous”? Because of the grammatical error? I’m not sure the whole event deserves to be labeled as infamous because he blew one line. In his place, I’d be too busy pissing myself to remember any of my lines.

    Oh, and that “send probes” thing is short-sighted as hell. Manned missions to the moon, Mars, and other progress in that direction are the first steps towards finding a way for this species to stop being stuck on one rock. Which IS going to get hit by something large again at some virtually unpredictable time in the future. I don’t spend my time worrying about meteor strikes wiping us out next month, but as a species, that’s only one of a number of excellent reasons to pull our heads out of our collective asses, give NASA some real money to work with, fire any stray idiots, and get to work on getting us off this planet.