Monday, July 20, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed

"One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

I clearly recall hearing those words on July 20, 1969, the day man first walked on the moon.

I got to skip church to watch the moon landing. And we never skipped church. I felt a little guilty but this was the moon landing. I wasn't going to miss it. I remember my mother and one of my sisters went to church and got back home before the astronauts actually walked on the moon. I remember seeing my mother and sister walk past the basement window and thinking how ironic it was that they went to church AND got to see man walk on the moon. Though I'm sure "ironic" was not in my vocabulary when I was ten. While I can picture myself in the family room watching the moon landing, it's the skipping church part that remains most vivid in my mind. That says something about my family, I guess. Moon landing, skipping church, equally monumental.

I remember my father telling me that when he was in high school his science teacher told his class that man would walk on the moon in their lifetime. "We all thought he was crazy," Dad said. Wonder if that teacher was still alive in 1969. I hope so.

Like most Americans during those years I was enamored with space. I had a poster in my bedroom of "The Earth Rising," a now famous image of the "half earth" suspended in a black sky above the surface of the moon. The space program gave us all something to be proud of in a time when our country was greatly divided over a great many things.

Tonight I watched a documentary about the moon landing. It brought up some things I didn't realize as a child. Nixon was president. He spoke to the astronauts by phone by way of the Houston Space Center. Why don't I remember that? Five other Apollo missions landed on the moon, the last one in 1972. I knew there were other missions to the moon but I couldn't have told you there were that many. The Six Flags amusement parks ought to capitalize on that somehow.

The documentary also talked about the importance of Apollo missions 1 - 10. Each one tested an important part of the moon landing, with Apollo 10 hovering above the surface of the moon without actually landing.

As I watched the documentary I noticed I was smiling. I was reliving the excitement of those space travel years. I smiled realizing I remembered the day man walked on the moon. I shared that experience with "my fellow Americans." And I was proud.

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