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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Apollo 11

35 years ago today, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon. Can you imagine being the first human being to set foot on the moon? All those millions of years that humans and proto-humans looked up in the sky and wondered what they were seeing...then when they finally had a pretty good idea of what they were looking at they yearned, as we all do, to touch.

Armstrong did it. There'll never be another first. Wow.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He messed that up. It was supposed to be "That's one small step for a man..." Proof positive that it was a human being that walked around up there. Hell, I'd probably 'a slipped coming down the ladder.

I wonder if the mission went off today, would we have planted an American Flag up there? All by itself? Ha! In your face, world! I have this sinking feeling it would be some one-world business - a UN flag, or maybe just a picture of...Earth - a sort of postcard to no one. "Wish you were here!"

When I was a kid I remember discovering the cassette tapes at the library. You could take a plastic pouch with a cassette in it, go sit down at these big table-top tape players, put on the headphones and listen. Cassette tape was still a new thing back then. One of the tapes was a recording of one of the Apollo missions. Just the radio chatter back and forth - the countdown and all that. 10, 9, 8...ignition...lift-off. I'd like to say I remember it well, Armstrong's voice and how it inspired me, but to be honest, I don't remember it all that well. It was a long time ago. I do remember sitting there for a long while, no video but my imagination, mesmerized by what I was listening to. For awhile, listening to that tape was my favorite thing to do at the library.

In a way, I'm still that little kid. Space still excites even though the daily grind has brought my feet back down to earth, and I'm not sure I'd ever have the patience to sit and listen like I did then. You never know, though. My imagination might have grown a bit dull, but it still cuts from time to time.

I should be so lucky as to screw up a line in front of the entire planet. Armstrong caught himself and just kept going - like a good musician does. Miss a note? Forget it. Just go on. There's still a song to play, and a lot of people are counting on your part. The worst I've ever done is forget a line in a High School play that only about a dozen people showed up to watch, anyway. I paced the stage, completely stuck, until one of the other players came and bailed me out with an improvised line. Before that experience I was completely at ease on the stage. After that experience I knew the meaning of "stage fright."

What that has to do with Neil Armstrong I have no idea. Maybe that's why Armstrong avoided the fame and acclaim that came with the title of "First man on the moon." He has to keep thinking, "Damn, I can't believe I screwed up my only line!" You have to keep thinking about it, because there's no way to fix it. Done forever. Recorded on a million tape recorders all over the planet.

You think? OK, probably not, but hell, he's just mortal like the rest of us, right?

One guy, who all humanity, by a culmination of evolution, science and shear will, rears back and fires like a fastball straight up into the sky. Tip of the spear.

35 years ago today.

4 Comments

I remember it very very well. I was at camp in the Adirondacks and listened to hte landing on my little olive green trasistor radio... thinking I was really missing something by not seeing it on TV.

Looking up at the moon that week was exciting.

I remember watching it on our black and white tv, and my dad had a camera on a tripod set up to take pictures of the tv when Armstrong stepped onto the moon.

It was all very exciting.

And some people think that we never went...

Apart from this website:-)

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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