Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Small Step for Man...A Giant Leap for Mankind

Is there anyone who doesn't recognize that quote? Perhaps the younger generation doesn't, nor do they understand the significance of what happened on July 20, 1969.

My grandparents were born in the day of the horse and buggy and lived to see man land on the moon. My generation saw the dawn of the space age. TVs were brought into our classrooms to see the pioneers of the space program launch into outer space. We sat in rapt wonder watching black and white TV (yes, this was before color became the industry and societal standard). It was only for a few minutes, just long enough to see the countdown to launch, the launch itself, and a few minutes to watch the rocket separate from the capsule containing the astronaut and fall away.

Sometimes, we got to see the recovery. News camera crews recorded the Navy ship approaching the capsule bobbing in the seas. Then, the helicopter hovering over the capsule and lowering the ropes to the astronaut, who was then lifted back onto the deck of the ship, seamen lining the rails to see history being made.

It was amazing to those of us who, until then, had only a grasp of the reality of space. Our knowledge of space travel was pretty much limited to comic books or the books on the science fiction shelf of the school or local library.

We watched on July 16, 1969, as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins blasted off from Cape Kennedy (formerly, and later once again, Cape Canaveral). We knew the mission would take several days. We knew we were watching history in the making.

Then came July 20. My Aunt Betty and her daughters, Lynda and Judy, were visiting from Pittsburgh that summer. I don't remember my brother being there that night, but I'm sure he was watching it from wherever he was; no one wanted to miss it. Mom and Dad, Aunt Betty, Lynda, Judy, and I were all gathered around the TV, no one wanting to leave the TV in case we missed something. I remember it being evening; I'm sure such a monumental event would be planned for Prime Time, but after 40 years, my memory is hazy as to the time of day. I just know, whatever the time, we were going to see it. This was BIG, this was history in the making!

We waited with anticipation until word came from Walter Cronkite that they had actually landed on the moon. Then, we continued to watch and wait until the moment when Neil Armstrong began his descent onto the Moon's surface and spoke those now famous words:

"That's one small step for man...a giant leap for Mankind"

The photo footage was very grainy. Live TV even in 1969 wasn't great to begin with, and this was being sent from the Moon! We wanted better, but were thrilled to see what we did. I still remember all of us yelling when Armstrong's foot touched the Moon's surface.

We had done it! We won the race to the Moon. America was number one in the world, and now, we were the first to the Moon. We had fulfilled the promise made by President Kennedy when he said America would put a man on the moon within the decade.

One of thousands of videos of the Moon Landing. Some historically accurate, some just for fun, and all can be found at NASA, Government archives, news media archives, UTube, and elsewhhere on the Internet.

Please do not write a rebuttal to this post. I know there are some who say that other Earthlings were on the Moon long before Apollo 11 landed and others say it never happened. They insist that it was all done on a sound stage and fake from beginning to end.

I prefer to believe in what I see and I haven't seen any evidence that it didn't happen. There were just too many people involved to be able to perpetrate a lie of this magnitude.

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