"To the moon Alice!"--Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), "The Honeymooners"
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."Forty-seven years ago today, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon (unless you believe the conspiracy theorists who think it was all a hoax). I was 11-years old. And I was about as thrilled as you could get.
I was a fan of all the NASA programs. I followed Mercury, Gemini and the Apollo flights that led up to Apollo 11 and the first moon landing. I wanted to be an astronaut. But that would have entailed becoming a pilot and I was told by a recruiter from the Airforce Academy when I was a senior in high school that I could never become an Airforce pilot because I wore glasses.
So instead of an astronaut I became a marketing professional. It doesn't matter how bad your eyesight is in marketing. In fact it is better to be blind as a bat when you do marketing.
But I digress.
When I was eleven, landing men on the moon signaled to me that there really no limits. It was a new age. If we could go to the moon, we could do anything. I ignored the criticism at the time that the millions of dollars spent sending people to the moon to pick up a few rocks could have been used on earth to feed people or find a cure for cancer. To me, the expense paled at the significance of being able to reach for the stars.
I stopped following the space program when they stopped sending people to the moon and started sending shuttles to space stations to conduct scientific experiments. Creating human satellites was of very little interest to me.
I was sad when Neil Armstrong died. I think he was a true hero. All of the early astronauts were. Apollo 13 proved just how dangerous a flight to the moon could be. But think of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the surface of the moon for the first time knowing that he could very well die up there if something failed on the lunar landing module or the command ship. Shoot, I feel uneasy every time I take off in an airplane let alone think about riding in a rocket that could explode, fail or leave me stranded on a barren rock in the sky. Though the view would be killer (pun intended).
Regardless, I felt compelled to mark this milestone. In a time when the world seems to be imploding with violence and unrest, it is comforting to think back to a time when people came together in harmony to watch one man take one small step that we hoped would change the world.
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