July 19, 1969, the world awaited with baited breath for one of the most anticipated milestones to occur. The next day, two humans were scheduled to land a spacecraft and then walk on the surface of the Moon. As history notes, the event successfully occurred. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down in the Lunar Exploration Module. They walked and explored a small area of the Moon, took photographs, collected dirt samples, and placed sensing devices in various places. July 24th, Apollo 11’s Command Capsule splashed down off the coast of Hawaii. Mission success.
There have been books written, documentaries and films produced, and speeches given about the first Moon travelers. People around the world who were alive at the time and witnessed the landing reminisce about it. Social media asks, “Where were you when Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon?”
Many of us not only have vivid memories of the time, place, and who we were with on Sunday, July 20th, 1969; many of us remember what we were thinking as we witnessed the launch, the journey, and the insertion of the craft into lunar orbit. Some of us even have memories of the first ten Apollo missions. Some of us also remember news accounts of the tragedy that happened in January of 1967 when the three Apollo 1 crew died in a cabin fire during testing of the spacecrafts system procedures.
My memories of those days were refreshed recently while I sorted through a storage trunk of archived material that had been saved from years gone by. I stumbled across four issues of the large format, “Life” magazine that I had squirreled away in 1969, then promptly forgot about. I began leafing through the pages of the magazines. The memories of those days came flooding back. I mentally relived some of the days of anticipation, including those of July 19th, 52 years ago, on the eve of the incredible historical landing. While the crew of Apollo 11 was making their final landing preparations, my high school best friend Joe and I were planning where and how we would be watching television the following day. As it turned out, Joe’s family shared in the planning. I’ll never forget the anticipation we all felt on the 19th into the 20th as the big landing was scheduled to happen.
It’s strange how a few simple artifacts can trigger mental time travel. More than half of a century has passed since those fantastic days of the first eleven Apollo missions. With the exceptions of Apollo 1 and Apollo 13, what happened before and after the first Moon excursion are largely forgotten. The trials and tribulations of the other missions deserve their places in history, too. They remind us that we all have our private hopes and dreams. We can be inspired by grand, positive, historic events and what happened to enable them.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. “Let me tell you something about Full Moons: kids don’t care about Full Moons. They’ll play in a Full Moon, no worries at all. They only get scared of magic or werewolves from stupid adults and their stupid adult stories.”