Sunday, July 20, 2014
Man on the Moon
My mother had died in January of 1969. She didn't live to see a man walk on the moon, or more importantly, live to witness her beloved NY Mets win the World Series.
That summer we departed from our customary August vacation at Point O'Woods on the coast of Connecticut. Instead, my dad planned a few shorter trips including one in July to visit his brother, our Uncle Ralph, his wife Aunt Phyllis and our cousins, affectionately referred to collectively as the Wethersfield Brandt's. So that's where we were on this date in 1969, gathered around the black and white TV in the living room of the house on a Timber Trail.
My only clear recollection of the event was that it took place at night and after the landing there was several hours of waiting before the hatch was opened and Neil Armstrong uttered his famous words. That all happened rather late and there were few eyes still opened and a fair amount of yawning.
I was 16 and perhaps too young to sense the historic nature of the event. The 60s, after all, were a wild decade with multiple assassinations and many historic moments. The space race had many firsts so the actual achievement of putting a man on the moon was only one of a long list of events all taking place in a relatively short period of time.
At the time, I was a bit of a "junior exploder" - a term coined by my hero, humorist Jean Shepherd, describing what we would today call a geeky kid. I was more interested in the technical aspects of the whole event, descent rates, ground radar, were there Klingons there waiting with distrupters. Seriously, I was immersed in science and technology, less so in the human story. Today, I like to remind people that the computer used in the LM (Lunar Module) was less powerful than an average iPod and infinitely less sexy. It was basically a glorified electronic calculator. But it safely got people to the moon and back many times. So, ultimately, I don't remember much of importance.
But I do recall a bunch years ago being at the Air and Space Museum in DC and viewing the exhibit on the lunar missions. The exhibit listing the names of ten other astronauts that traveled to the moon; names I did not remember. They made the post that after the first few trips to the moon, America and the world lost interest in the project and ultimately defunded the Apollo Program due to a lack of interest.
So much for the "Giant leap for Mankind..."