Monday, July 20, 2009

Remembering the Moon Landing

Forty years ago today, men landed on the moon. I was five years old and I'll never forget it.

We were at Grandma's house in Vincennes, Indiana. She had a black-and-white TV that received only three stations (as opposed to the whopping eleven stations we got at home in Ypsilanti, Michigan), but that's all we needed. Since Neil Armstrong's first step took place somewhat later at night than I'm sure my parents would have allowed me to stay up at that age, what is in my memory must be replays that aired the next day. Nevertheless, I watched in wonder as Walter Cronkite narrated the adventure for the world. I don't specifically remember Neil Armstrong saying, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," but I distinctly recall thinking how funny he looked as he bounded across the moon's surface as if he were on some strange trampoline.

Later that night, Dad took me outside to Grandma's front yard where we could see a waxing crescent moon shining down on all of us. He pointed to it and said, "Those men are up there right now." I strained my eyes and swore I could see little dots walking around on the surface.

Those were heady days. Gas stations gave away Apollo glasses that were fun to drink out of. Anything associated with the space program had a certain thrill to it. Astronauts who drank Tang and used Fisher Space Pens were heroes to a country in desperate need of them. The event became a byword. "We can put a man on the moon, but we can't ______ (fill in the blank - usually reserved for some mundane, even stupid, task)."

The excitement that gripped the nation inspired a five-year-old girl to think beyond the here-and-now to a future that is not only possible, but probable. I learned that pie-in-the-sky dreams are attainable if you but have a craft that can reach them.

To all of today's Chicken Littles who would have us huddle in fear of everything and everyone, I say, "Phhbbbbt." These people cannot possibly have lived in a time when dreams were achievable and risks were worth taking. Or if they did, they did not learn its lessons.

But for the rest of us, the world is full of adventures, and we have only to stretch our hands out to grasp them. Aim high and reach for the sky! What a great attitude. What a great way to live life! What better legacy could the first manned moon landing bequeath to us forty years later?