Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | July 20, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed

For a kid growing up in the 1960s, there was no higher calling than to become an astronaut—or so it seemed to me at the time.  Many days as an elementary school student, I remember rushing home from school with a singular mission to set myself firmly in front of the TV set, and to get there just as quickly as I could.  I didn’t hurry home to watch cartoons or other afternoon children’s fare; my purpose was so much more serious than that.  I knew that at that moment there were men in space, aboard a real spaceship, and all three of the TV networks where providing continuous coverage.  Like other young boys (and I presume many young girls) of my generation, I was fixated.  Space: What an amazing place. And we can actually go there!

The men of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs were true pioneers in every sense; they were no different than the explorers of old, seafarers such as Columbus and Magellan, and trailblazers such as Lewis and Clark.  They all set upon great adventures from the vanguard of knowledge and technology of their times.  They all knew that inherent in their endeavors was the high risk of failure, and perhaps the equally high risk that they would not live to return to tell their stories.  But they went anyway, because that is what they were born to do; they were explorers.  In the risk-averse world in which we live today, we can all take instruction from these men who risked everything to advance the cause of science, knowledge, and understanding, and to give full flight to the human spirit and humankind’s timeless need to move beyond the immediate and known sphere of our existence.  In the inspiring words of President John Kennedy, “We choose to go to the moon.  We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . . .”  And that about sums up who we have historically been as Americans.

Forty years ago today—and I can’t believe it has been that long—I sat absolutely stunned, as did the rest of the nation and the entire world, as the United States set two men upon the forlorn surface of another world, the moon.   I was 12 years old at the time, and probably didn’t fully realize what I do now at the age of 52: that this is quite likely the greatest scientific and technological feat of humankind that I will witness in my lifetime.  Even the astounding computer revolution of the last quarter-century pales in my mind to that which was unimaginable through most of human history, but was actually attained on that mid-summer day in 1969.

The median age of the population of the United States today stands somewhere in the mid-30s. That means that less than half of the living populace today were alive to witness the triumph of that first lunar landing in 1969.  That makes me old; it also makes me very privileged.  What a phenomenal time to have been alive!

At the foot of the lunar lander, where it rests on the surface of the moon still today, a plaque is affixed with this simple inscription:

HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969 A.D.
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND

May we ever go forward with this same spirit.

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Responses

  1. My three girls, 12, 10, and 4 sat on an linoleum floor in a house in Morley, MI watching on a small black and white TV when that footprint of mankind was made on the moon. You had the privilege of getting to know one of them very well and you gained “the moon” for your own—in a way.


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