Once upon a time, many ‘moons’ ago, there was a spirit of accomplishment, patriotism and pride in America, as John F. Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon within a decade was being realized. These were very exciting times as we all followed the space program and cheered the first seven brave military pilots that would become astronauts.
John Glen thrilled all of us when he became the first man to orbit the earth (three times) in his Friendship 7 Mercury Capsule, just seven short years before the successful moon landing of the Apollo 11 mission. My grandfather was one of the hard core unbelievers of the space program, especially the moon landings. He insisted that they never made it to the moon but staged all of it in the desert. He just couldn’t accept the fact that man could actually go to the moon.
It has been said that there are more electronics in your microwave today than was in the Mercury space vehicles. The devices in our hands, purses and pockets far exceed those early electronics. You have the power! Speaking of grandfathers, mine on my mother’s side actually owned one of the first television sets in Ft. Worth, TX. And that’s really not that long ago. Technology has exploded, mostly for the good, some – not so. But that’s another subject for another time!
The failures during the Apollo years of NASA’s march to the moon were few, but dramatic. Apollo 1 sadly lost three astronauts in a cabin fire during a prelaunch test. An unmanned Apollo 6 was a partial success/failure and one manned Apollo launch experienced a lightning strike that caused the computers to spit out gibberish for a few minutes. We were glued to the news reports as the crew of the ill fated Apollo 13 mission struggled to get back to earth in their severely crippled spacecraft. And we were so thankful to God and proud of the technicians that worked tirelessly to get those men back safely.
But the drama was intensified on July 11, 1969 as Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to actually stroll around on the surface of the moon. America was glued to their televisions as the Lunar Module (LM), named The Eagle, with the two heroes, separated from the Command and Service Module (CSM – The Columbia), leaving pilot Michael Collins alone there, circling the moon.
The LM descended and we anxiously watched as the report came “Houston, Tranquility Base here, The Eagle has landed.” Six hours later, Neil Armstrong made his way down the ladder to the moon’s surface. Nineteen minutes after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface. They spent a little more than two hours on the first moon walk.
My wife and I were married in March of that year and were living in a small apartment in Houston. Our television was a small black and white. The picture wasn’t the best, but it was a thrilling moment in history to witness firsthand. When the first pictures came in, the scene was upside down and I remember trying to get my head in a position to see it correctly. It wasn’t long, however until the picture righted itself.
Then the voice of Commander Armstrong came through those crackling transmissions, “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.” Wow, what a charge to hear that from the surface of the moon that we all have admired all our lives.
I want to amend my previous post with this: Minutes before the hatch would open and man stood on the surface of another world for the first time, astronaut Buzz Aldrin asked the American public to be thankful, in their won way, for all the events that had occurred. Communications were cut by NASA because of a lawsuit that had been filed by Madelyn Murray O’Hare after Apollo 8 had read Scripture as they orbited the moon. But before the walk, Aldrin pulled out a small container and observed the Lord’s Supper, saying later that he felt it was proper to honor God at that time and in that way.
I would’ve never have thought that I would one day have a friend who, at the same time that we were watching this fascinating event, would be watching from the jungles of Viet Nam. I met Jim a few years ago and he explained to me how the Commander of their Army outpost compound in the jungle had a thirty foot antenna. They were not able to leave it up all the time because it would be a target for the bad guys to zero in on with their mortars.
But this day they mounted it and attached it to a television set and received the transmissions just as we did. They invited the local Vietnamese people from the nearby village to watch with them. He said it was very frustrating to try and explain to them what was happening. “See the moon up there? America has sent men there and they are walking on it right now!” But they just couldn’t relate or understand. You can read Jim’s story here: https://written4u.com/heading-to-the-rice-patties/
Yes, it was a truly exciting day to be an American, whichever side of the world you were on. Whether in the jungles or in metropolitan America, it was certainly a giant leap for technological advances and many benefits for humankind. Who knows, maybe we’ll see some young astronauts strolling around on Mars one day!