The moon landing

My latest package from Amazon arrived a couple days ago, and included a copy of MoonFire, a gorgeous coffee-table tome from Taschen, with text by Norman Mailer and photos from NASA. It’s a history of the Apollo 11 mission, with a brief history of the U.S. space program starting with the Mercury and Gemini programs, and then the Apollo flights up through 11. I’ve seen many of these photos before — I’ve been a space nut since I was a kid, but many of them are new to me.

Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July of 1969. I was ten years old that summer. I was already an avid fan of the space program. Every young boy wanted to be an astronaut, of course, or a fireman, but I’m not sure if I wanted to go up in space as much as I wanted to just be involved in the effort in some way, probably as one of the engineers or controllers. (Even now, when I go to see a play or concert or other similar production I spend as much time gazing up at the scenery and stage work, to see how it all works, as I do the production itself.) It didn’t hurt that my uncle worked for NASA, training the Apollo astronauts in the use of their in-flight computer systems; when I told him that I was interested in the space program he sent me a few books and posters, and a gorgeous wall-size map of the moon.

Not much later, for my fifth grade science fair project, rather than having any sort of hands-on demonstration, or something that moved or made a noise (everyone had the same volcano that burned some concoction that fizzed and showered sparks), I simply hung all of my gorgeous posters on the gymnasium wall, and sat in a folding chair waiting for someone to ask me a question, which of course no one did. My teacher took pity on me, came to sit next to me, and asked a few.

As with most Americans, and a lot of other people around the world, I watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on TV. I remember the event — a bunch of us kids were outside playing frisbee on the warm summer evening when the neighbour lady started shouting at us to hurry and come inside to watch TV. A strange request, but she insisted. I’m glad that she did, that she recognized the import of the occasion, and made sure that we watched. Then, on an afternoon a few days later, I was at a different neighbour’s house (I think perhaps negotiating a lawn-mowing job) when I saw the splashdown on TV. Another historic moment.

I, together with millions of other kids my age, never became an astronaut. I didn’t go to work for NASA or even go anywhere near an engineering profession (though my son did). But I did retain an appreciation for what can be accomplished by science, by the scientific method, by rational thinking. The only TV shows that I can stand to watch are educational, preferably technology based — think MythBusters. I’m very intrigued by the history of technology and its effect upon our society. I like figuring out how things work, and like building and fixing things with my hands. It’s not quite going to the moon, but it’s better than watching sports.


About pininforthefjords

I'm pinin' for the fjords. That's all.
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