Happy Moon Day

Forty-seven years ago today, Americans landed on the moon. I was five years old and still remember every bit of it, including my parents letting me stay up way past my bedtime to watch an unassuming man from Wapokoneta, OH, step out and take a stroll.

For the closest thing you may ever have to a front-row seat, check out these painstakingly synchronized audio and video loops from both the spacecraft and mission control. And this video does an excellent job of explaining what was going on inside Eagle and the split-second judgments they had to make just to keep going:

Any one of those glitches could’ve ended in an abort if they weren’t resolved. Not to mention that the computer took them about three seconds long, which would’ve put them down into a boulder field. Being the steely-eyed missile man that he was, Armstrong recognized this with about 500 feet left to go and flew them forward to safer ground. When they finally landed, it was estimated that they had less than twenty seconds of fuel left.

Would that we might muster the will to do such things again.

One Giant Leap

Apollo 11 Launch. Credit: NASA

Despite (or perhaps because of) today’s dreary headlines, I’d be neglecting my space-nerd cred if I didn’t point out that today is the 43rd anniversary of the first moon landing.

I was five, and completely obsessed with the whole program. My grandpa loaded me up with Apollo toys from the Gulf station, including some nifty stuff that came inside Tang jars (the official OJ of the space program). The coolest was this little plastic disc that you’d pop out of the lid and bake in the oven. It came out as a perfectly realized Apollo Command Module.

Yeah, I had a couple dozen of them. Plus models. Plus GI Joe astronauts. Plus books. So it was pretty much a no-brainer for my parents to let me stay up well past bedtime to watch the first moonwalk on TV. And I wasn’t the least bit fooled when my Mom called in from the front porch that she could see them up there on the Moon (unlike my little sister, who fell for it).

She couldn’t fool me. I had a telescope, and therefore knew better. Didn’t stop me from trying later on, though…

Our youngest has always had a fascination with the moon. Not sure why – who can explain such things? But I totally get it. When he was younger, he’d ask me if he could go to the moon when he grows up. I told him I certainly hope so. He said “I’m going to go to that moon, and smoke a cigarette when I get there”.

It’s beyond disappointing that we stopped going and have been mired in low Earth orbit ever since. I don’t want this to just be another vague story my kids hear about from their old man – I want them to see it happen again. I want them to have the chance to go – and to go even farther.

Thankfully, that may be even more likely now than it was just ten years ago. Here’s hoping my son has the chance to light up a cig on the moon one day.

But afterwards, he’d #$%@! well better never touch one of those cancer sticks again.