July 20, 1969

On the morning of July 20, 1969, I was a seventeen year old girl dying through her last summer at home before heading off to college and the rest of her life. I was reading a lot of science fiction that summer, taking long walks through the woods, fighting with my younger sister, and trying to ignore my parents. Most of that summer has faded into lost time. There’s only one day I really remember. This one.

I was watching the television all afternoon. Apollo 11 was landing on the moon!

 

Can you even think the words “Tranquility Base here” without tearing up? I can’t; the surge of emotion is still so powerful. It was the climax of lifetimes of dreaming and working, of sacrifice and lives lost and heroism and hope. It was the fantasies of my childhood made concrete.

[More below the fold…]

I stayed glued to the TV all through the evening. I had a big fight with my father because it was getting so late and he wanted to watch his programs. Only, of course, his programs weren’t on because all three networks were carrying the feed from NASA. Back then, there were three channels and that was it. My parents went to bed.

So there I was, awake alone in a dark house at 10pm, when those first grainy black and white video transmissions came from the moon. The Moon! And Neil Armstrong climbed down that ladder and stepped onto the surface of the moon, and said something that was unintelligible (and probably not what he meant to say). It took Walter Cronkite to tell me what he said: That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for Mankind. Buzz Aldrin joined him a few minutes later. I watched all night. My body was there in a suburban house in central Ohio – my heart and mind were on the Moon.

 
And here we are, 39 years later. There’s no one on the moon today. Hasn’t been for a long time. We have great little robots on Mars, and that’s wonderful (go, Phoenix!) but we went the moon and then we stopped visiting. People in centuries to come are going to wonder what we could have been thinking.

Happy Moon Day!

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