Friday, July 19, 2019

Man On The Moon, 50 Years Ago

July 20, 1969.

I was a teenager when our whole family gathered around the family TV (it was still black and white back then, but it didn't matter, the pictures from the moon were also in black and white) and held our collective breaths as man walked on the moon for the first time in the history of universe.  It was the one moment of my life when you knew that everyone in the country--no, everyone on the planet--was doing the same thing you were.

Having grown up on Twilight Zone and Star Trek (the original, folks, in the first run), having read science fiction and comic books, it was just the most exciting thing I could possibly imagine.  Was man actually going to conquer the moon?  Was American ingenuity going to to triumph over the dreaded Soviets and get there first? The Cold War was in full bloom and the "Space Race" was a big part of it. 

Of course, the space program had been a part of my life ever since I could remember.  I had vague memories of the earliest Mercury flights, and I probably watched each blast-off and each splash down.  There was a time there where I could recite the names of all the astronauts and each of their missions in order.  Yes, I was really into it.

But whether you loved the space program or couldn't care less about it, on that day, you were watching.  You were transfixed.  You were holding your breath wondering if it was going to be successful, or if perhaps it would end in disaster.

I doubt if anyone who is too young to have lived through this unbelievable day will be able to understand what it felt like at that singular instant in time.

It was truly an epic moment, the most incredible moment of my life.  I suppose when I think back on it, it still is.  There were no VCR's, DVR's or anything like that back then.  I tried taking photos of the first pictures back from the moon right off the TV screen with a crummy camera, and of course they didn't come out.

Of course back then, when I could barely comprehend the magnitude of man walking on the moon, I didn't envision something called the "internet" would come along and I'd be able to easily find all the pictures of man on the moon I could ever want.

The memory of Walter Conkrite taking off his glasses, and, with tears in his eyes, saying, "Man on the moon," is one I will take to my grave.

It wasn't until later that we learned just how great a pilot that Neil Armstrong had to be to pull off the landing without crashing or aborting.  Armstrong was a true hero, beyond any doubt.  Much later, Armstrong didn't think what he had done was so special, once saying, "I just went where I was sent."

I figure that's got to be the understatement of all time.

If this post reads a little familiar to you, that's because I posted the original version on August 25, 2012, the day Neil Armstrong died.  It was a tribute to him.  I have edited it now for this purpose, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Armstrong's most famous stroll.

It's a shame Armstrong isn't around to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his historic walk.  Fortunately the other Apollo 11 astronauts who were part of the mission, Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, and Michael Collins, the command module pilot, are still with us.  By the way, I always felt bad for Collins, to have gotten that close to the moon, and to see the other two crew members walking on the moon, that he never got walk on the moon himself.  His role was vital of course.

I must say, knowing that it was fifty years ago makes me feel old.  I guess there's a good reason for that.

"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."


  1. I was a little too young to remember the Kennedy assassination, but I remember when MLK and RFK were shot. The moon walk, however, I remember the exact place, huddled in front of a television with a group of people. What has always been interesting to me is that sometimes people forget that we went back to the moon several times. My brother, thundering36, took me to Chicago to see the ticker tape parade for the Apolli 11 astronauts. Wish I had been taller at the time!

    1. Wow, that's a great memory. I'm sure you DVR'd the parade. Oh, wait.

  2. Comment must be made. Thanks for the effort for writing this.

  3. Great post Rob. I was just over 1 when this all happened but been obsessed all my life. For my 50th my wife even got me the same watch worn by XI . Been watching all the docs in TV this week, but it’s even better to hear first hand experiences of people I know.

    1. Thanks, Ben. That's really cool about the watch. So interesting that you were so into the Moon Landing even though you were too young to remember it. Glad I could help.

  4. 50 years has passed since the moon landing , and yet no new post. New post coming out after space x do a Mars landing ?

    1. LOL. Actually I was just waiting for at least ONE person to comment about where the hell was a new blog post!

      Seriously, I will have something new really soon (tomorrow morning, I think) with a bit of an explanation, so hang in there.

      I appreciate the fact you missed me!

  5. Man, I grew up within sight of the Johnson Space Center and went to school with many astronaut's kids...and I wasn't THIS into it. Pretty cool. I used to work with a guy who was in mission control during the Apollo 1 fire and many others who were there during the shuttle disasters. They witnessed some pretty awful stuff and kept on plugging away. Mankind is meant to explore.