By Piper Bayard
My parents sat us in front of the TV on that July day back in 1969 and said, “You will want to tell your children about this.” We watched Neil Armstrong take the first walk on the moon, not understanding how remarkable it was, but thinking it was incredibly cool just the same.
Our young lives were filled with Tang and Quisp and astronauts, and since each generation believes the world springs fully formed at the moment of its own birth, we took the moon walks for granted. After all, they happened every few months, and at our age, there wasn’t really a time before. We were certain people would be living on the moon by the time we were adults, using it as a base to explore the rest of the solar system.
And Star Trek? Why not? Even Russians and Americans eventually set aside the space race fueled by the Cold War and shared the International Space Station. Space wasn’t only the final frontier. It was the place where humans stood together in the face of the unknown Universe. The very essence of Star Trek made real.
I am only now fully feeling the possibility that there will be no more moon walks in my lifetime. In fact, I’m fond of saying, “We put a man on the moon with a slide rule. Why can’t we do it again with all of these computers? I’m not seeing any improvement here.”
But Neil Armstrong and the other brave astronauts of those years planted a seed in the minds and hearts of humanity that not only stands for the wonders we can find in the night sky, but for what is possible here on earth. My parents were right. I do point to that moment and tell my children, “Anything is possible if we choose to make it so.”
Image from NASA.
Thank you, Neil Armstrong. R.I.P.
All the best to all of you for keeping the fire burning.
I was in Japan when the moon landing happened. I think being in the military and knowing our potential gave us a “Yeah, okay, what’s next?” attitude. Nothing happened. We went back to the moon, spent billions orbiting the Earth. It’s as if JFK’s mandate had been met and we could set back on our duff and bask in the glory of beating the USSR. Star Trek was a dream, we all shared and only stoners and techies thought it possible. We’ve become involved with terrestrial affairs and now we view space exploration as something to keep those who remembered the initial struggle believing all the money wasn’t wasted and in our great, great, great grandchildren’s lifetimes we’ll colonize Mars because we’ve trashed the Earth.
Well, you notice I didn’t say the NASA bureaucracy or earthly politics did anything to contribute to the ideal. Fortunately, at the age of five, such things did not exist to me, and I was able to embrace the dream wholeheartedly.
He was a remarkable pick to be the first human to step onto another world. Among the “right stuff” he was the right one – not full of bravado, and a hero to the end. Chuck Yeager said that Neil steered him away from using a “signing machine” to reproduce his autograph, citing that no matter how many letters he had to write, they should all be real. For all the heights he reached, he managed to keep his feet on the ground like no one else would probably have managed.
His personality was as great as his accomplishments, for sure.
I really enjoyed reading this post. How well you re-created the atmosphere bubbling that day in 1969. That my kids asked me to share my then 6 year old impressions with them ruffled up many of those memories which seem to take on a visceral kind of sensation. The vividness re-installs itself quickly in the mind’s eye. In retrospect, those were really good times. Being corralled into the AV room in elementary school to watch all subsequent Apollo lift-offs and splashdowns with mouths wide open is another sign of those times. We were very fortunate to have experienced that particular excitement and wonder.
Yes, we were! I can’t think of anything my children have seen that has even come close to that kind of universal wonder and feeling of possibility. Thank you for sharing your memories.
I agree with you. My 17 yr old son remarked the following to his younger sibling: “Mom got the Moon landing and we got 9/11”. Sad, but true in many ways.
I thought of that, too, as I was writing that reply to you. When I tried to think of something comparable in magnitude in my children’s lives, 9/11 was it. And it is so very sad.
I was sitting with my grandmother, who crossed the Continental Divide in a horse-drawn wagon, when Armstrong landed on the moon. As fascinating is the landing was, watching her face was even more fascinating. I can only imagine what thoughts raced through her head.
Wow. What a span of frontier history was represented in that room! Thanks for sharing that memory, David.
“We were certain people would be living on the moon by the time we were adults, using it as a base to explore the rest of the solar system.”
I thought so, too, Piper. I thought so, too.
We do seem to think along similar lines, at times. I poured the emotion I felt upon hearing of Neil Armstrong’s passing into this post, on my Citizens for Space Based Solar Power blog. (Yes, I’m still deciding what I want to be, if I ever grow up.)
I’ll never be able to look at the Moon again, without giving Neil Armstrong a wink.
I still think of that flag planted up there. It’s on my bucket list to see it in person.
Many people, particularly those from the Soviet Union and Soviet Block countries, say it never happened. They say it was all a massive political propaganda campaign on the part of the US government. (Clearly they have no idea how independent minds work in Western society.) They point to the flag and say, “See? Proof it’s fake. There’s no wind on the moon but they show the flag unfurled.” I hope they all watch this video again to see that there’s a stick in the top of the flag. 🙂
Living in Space Country (NASA’s close and I know a lot of people who work in space industry), Neil Armstrong and other astronauts are truly inspiring. I would love to see the government bureaucracy scaled down and a new dream announced. Surely we still have dreamers in the U.S., right? We have more steps and more leaps to take.
Unfortunately, today’s dreamers in government are side-tracked with dreams of race wars, class wars, and lining their own pockets, I’m afraid. When I’m president, we will definitely set those distractions aside and focus on uniting activities such as the space program and the ideals it represented. 🙂
Amen. I wore my Bayard Lamb 2012 t-shirt just yesterday!
Because Blonde is the New Black!
Well said, Piper! Isn’t it funny that when we lived in a simpler time, more progress was being made?!?!?!??
… and you know that when I say “funny”, it should be in the sarcasm font!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Caught that. 🙂
It makes sense, in a way. At that time, we were in the grips of the Cold War. We were united in being American, and we weren’t afraid to insult our enemies by naming them out loud. Since the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union reorganized into Russia, America has splintered into special snowflake groups who put themselves ahead of the good of the country. It’s no wonder we can’t get it together to make any unified progress when people are more concerned with being special than in being the same and focusing on a common goal.
I agree! Truly, anything is possible if you have the knowledge, motivation and ability to achieve it.
The quintessential American mindset and one of our great strengths as a nation. 🙂
I was 6 when it happened – remember the day like yesterday. It was a truly, truly important moment in the history of the world for so many reasons.
And then? Humanity lost the dream. The moon landings were a product of cold war poltiics; but they did not have to stay that way. The momentum did not have to be lost. Armstrong, I think, knew that – this quiet, self-effacing man who was one of the very great heroes of our time. We will not, I think, see his like again.
I am of the mind that everything that has happened on the planet throughout history is happening on some scale in the present. Wars, famine, sacrifice, mercy and all of the other faces of humanity. The balances swing as to which is dominant on a planet-wide scale. Our awareness shifts because of time, place, relevance, and exposure. But I believe somewhere today, all of the good and all of the bad are represented. In other words, I believe there will always be a “Neil Armstrong” even though we may never read about him in the papers.
However, that doesn’t detract one bit from this Neil Armstrong’s grace as a person and the wonder that was his first walk on the moon. 🙂
Amen, Piper. And RIP to an American hero. I’ll be winking at the moon tonight.
Always liked that picture of him. Good post.
Also live surrounded by astronauts, space engineers, and all those hands-on people. My brother worked with NASA in the early days – my dad grew up barefooted, one room school house, and riding in a wagon. We went so far so fast – then it all changed. The spark, the kids’ dreams dimmed. We’ve felt sadness for years watching the program shrink and get dismissed. But this past week I’ve also heard from young dreamers who are still fascinated by the stars and exploration. It’s encouraging. Go Space X – and the rest of you. Private enterprise has always lifted this country. With new energy, please take the reins and drive on to where no man has gone before.
A fine tribute to a fine human being, Piper. He unfailingly modeled integrity and authenticity and gave many of us the thrill of a lifetime.