In July, 1969, I was a 25-year-old Navy lieutenant preparing for deployment to Westpac as a search and rescue pilot with HC-1. I was completing transition from the H-2, a smaller helicopter, to the Sikorski H-3, which was better suited to the high density altitudes of Southeast Asia. Surprisingly, in retrospect, even though I was a pilot and an avid SF reader, with the intensity of the retraining, I hadn’t paid much more than cursory attention to the Apollo 11 mission and didn’t realize the full extent of the media coverage until I returned home from the base late that afternoon, when my then-wife reminded me of what was happening. When the time drew closer to touchdown, we woke our son, then only two years old, and plunked him down with us in front of the television with the statement that he should see this historic moment, even if he might not remember it.
I did swallow hard when Armstrong actually stepped onto the moon, but the impact of that moment became far greater over time, especially once I ended up as a political staffer in Washington, D.C., and watched the politicians continue to gut the space program year after year. That contrast between the focused aspirations and technical excellence of the Apollo program and political “reality” brought home in a continuing and gut-wrenching way how far removed politics can be from the best of human achievement, and that understanding, I think, is reflected in most of the books I’ve written.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is an American science fiction and fantasy author. He has penned dozens of novels, but is perhaps best known for his Saga of Recluce series.