Time for a history lesson and some personal perspective on what I consider to be one of the greatest achievements of my lifetime.
It was July 1969 and the country was in an anticipatory mood as man’s first trip to land on the moon was overshadowing all of the bad things that were going on simultaneously. There was the Vietnam War in full swing, there was political discourse and all of the other things combined.
The era of free love and sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll was just beginning to plant itself into the fabric of the times.
Of course I’m talking about the flight of Apollo 11, the culmination of less than a decade’s work to answer a challenge issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. It was supposed to be the final finish in the Space Race between the United States and the then Soviet Union that began when Sputnik flew across the sky to bring the decade of the ’50s to a close.
Three men — flight commander Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and command module pilot Mike Collins — were launched aboard the most powerful man-rated rocket the world had ever seen. It was a 365-feet tall Saturn IV. The rocket itself had to be brought to the Kennedy Space Center on a barge because of its massive size, then be assembled in one of the largest buildings in the world by square feet.
I remember it as one of the times when the entire world was following the same thing, the flight to the moon.
On July 16, they were propelled from Launch Pad 39A into the greatest journey man had ever witnessed.
Just four days later, they were set to land on the moon. With Armstrong and Aldrin aboard the spider-like lunar module, the Eagle took flight.
During the space age, as it was called, all of the spacecraft had names. For Apollo 11 it was the command module Columbia and the lunar module Eagle.
Columbia was a tribute to Jules Verne and his novel about a trip to the moon.
As the Eagle began her descent with Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin at the helm, they captivated the entire world.
There was not one civilized country that didn’t seem to be watching. As the LEM, as the lunar module was called — Lunar Excursion Module — began dropping into the history books, the world watched with anticipation. From Disneyland to Paris and all points in either direction, people stood at storefronts, in large crowds or in their living rooms to watch as the Eagle became Tranquility Base at 5:35 p.m. Eastern Time on July 20, 1969.
It was a few hours later, around 8:35 p.m., when Neil Armstrong said the magic words — and it was confirmed, he said it this way — “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
For one magical moment, his steps and the steps of the 10 others who followed, became a bridge to all who were watching. It seemed at that very moment, the entire world was together.
All I ask is why can’t we do this again? Why can’t we find a common thread between us and use it as the first in a giant velvet bond that will keep us all tied together.
Maybe I’m being a bit overly simple, but, hey, why not?
Rick Curl is a reporter with The Daily Record. Reach him at 910-230-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.