Monday, July 20, 2015

One Small Step for a man ...

Today was "Moon Day," or so they called it.  The day, in 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon.  I was there, as they say, if only watching on television.

The space program was a big deal to me.  As a child of the 1960s (born in 1957 - my parents called my pacifier "Sputnik") the space program was the stuff of wonder for a child.  I have vague memories of the Gemini missions on TV, and more vivid memories of Apollo.  I would look back on the Mercury program of the early 1960s in the same way I would look back on the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and the Kennedy assassination(s), and remember with childlike wonder how such things could happen in America.  I saw it, but the child didn't process it.

I guess you have to be my age (57) or older to have any sort of perspective on the Apollo moon landing.  I don't think you could have been any younger than that to have any real idea what was going on.  The 1960s were a turbulent time in our history, but as a child, all I was interested in was the wonder of science and what we were doing in going to the moon.

I built scale models of the Saturn V rocket and Lunar Module, complete with stages and a launch pad. Nowadays, I'd guess there would be a video game.  In my day, we built plastic models with glue that we had to have our parents present to purchase. I also built models of John Kennedy in a rocking chair and Babe Ruth swinging a bat at Yankee Stadium, but I digress...

My mother wasn't  the least bit interested in the whole Apollo 11 affair.  As I stayed awake through delay after delay, she would yell down, "Would you turn that damned TV down?!"  I had the proverbial toothpicks in my eyes waiting for Neil, Buzz, Al Shepard, Alan Bean, et al to step out of the LEM and start the TV show.

The Apollo 12 show was a bit of a disappointment.  I remember the broadcast being staticy and disrupted.  Alan Bean hit the camera with the sample hammer and, for a moment, the picture returned ... but eventually went back to the scrambled mess.

Subsequent missions - excluding the historic Apollo 13 - would be anti-climactic, as Americans we had seen the landing and walkabout before, and were quickly bored with it all.  I wondered what was so boring about it. It's a man on the moon and all - but nevertheless ...

It was the stuff of wonder.  Science come to life. In its time, it was improbable yet possible.  We had trouble believing what we were seeing, yet we understood our capability.  Literally history in the making.

What I fear now is that the children today have no sense of wonder.  They have witnessed so much, yet so little.  What they witness is fed to them... Pornography, marketed links, Tweets, Facebook posts, TMZ -- all the stuff that occupies their minds on their phone while they should be conversing and absorbing life.

I suppose we have turned a corner, and the "small step for a man" isn't a big enough step for mankind today.
Perhaps we expect too much?