To Infinity And Beyond–Or At Least To The Moon!
Watching all of the tv shows celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing has been like a return to my childhood. My memories of the landing itself are a bit foggy, but as I grew up I became a huge fan of America’s space program. As a kid, I remember listening for hours to a record (no cassettes or CD’s back then, sorry) that replayed the final descent of the lunar module. You could hear the calm in Armstrong’s and Aldrin’s voices--even as Armstrong took control of the lunar module away from the computer and Aldrin called out their status with only a few seconds of fuel left. It was truly a heroic moment.
I’m by no means an engineer, but I also appreciated the incredible engineering that went into the race to the moon. For Christmas one year I received a model of a Saturn V rocket that was taller than I was! Even looking at a small model and all of its intricate parts was mind-blowing. Years later I got to make a visit to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I stood beside a full scale mock up of a Saturn V rocket. My mind was blown again by its sheer size. We also got to see the “crawler” that was used to carry the Saturn V (and, years later, the space shuttle) from the vehicle assembly building to the launch pad. All of this left me with a profound sense of awe. Honestly, I still get shivers when I watch a rerun of one of the Apollo liftoffs.
The moon landing inspired pride and unity around the world. President Nixon captured this in his famous telephone call with the astronauts: “For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the peoples on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.” Even in the midst of the turbulence of the 60s, there was something uplifting about the idea of reaching for the stars. As we make plans to go to the moon and beyond in the coming years, I have two hopes: that we can focus again on the things that unite us and that we can enjoy a shared pride in a job well done.
Watching all of the tv shows celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing has taken Jay Stoneking back to his childhood.