Sunday, July 20, 2014

So The Moon Isn't Made of Cheese After All...

Reflections on the Moonwalk

It certainly doesn't seem that long, but it's been 45 years since man walked on the moon. Among all the random memories of my childhood, this day is one of the ones that stands out to me.  When I hear the phrase, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," or hear someone mention the moonwalk, it's as if it all comes to me, in a chunk of memories, even though as an adult, I realize they aren't all related. Yet, they ARE related because in my mind, my brain put them all in a file called, "Day of Moonwalk." Apparently, it's all or none with me. (I tend to get the big picture and "know" the fragments intuitively when writing books as well.)

As odd as it seems, I suppose that half of the people alive today, everyone under the age of 45, were born after the moonwalk - it's a historic event that happened before they were born, lumped in with ancient pyramids, medieval castles, the Pilgrims, and world wars.  "Modern folks" don't realize just how scary this was... we didn't know if they'd make it back alive, and if it'd change them physically in some way. (yes, it was a real concern!) This moon-walking thing was a really BIG deal!    Being in mid-July, this was most likely pretty much about all that was going on. We were in the middle of summer break and in Tennessee, this meant it was hot and humid... with few air conditioned places available.

I was 11 years old, just old enough to understand what was going on.  Days earlier, we watched the rocket lift off that would carry men to the moon.. yes, the moon... what a fascinating thought. In the days between launch and touch-down, television stations explained the science behind the mission. But the part that touched me was the humanness behind the story. The astronauts had families, kids my age, that might never see them again. I wasn't the only one to fear they'd crash when they landed on the moon, or miss the pick-up connection, or who knows what? Two landed on the moon, and one circled around in order to pick them up for the return home. One of my memories of that time was my sadness for him - taking the chances but not getting to walk on the moon. I felt sorry for him.

Finally "the day" arrived - they'd be actually stepping out on the moon "in the middle of the night" or so I thought... Years later I looked it up and discovered it was just about midnight Central time. Completely unrelated to the moonwalk in any way that I'm aware, we went shopping earlier in the day. it was such a special trip - to Kmart.  (Yes, indeed, a sheltered life since that was exciting! But back then, people didn't shop as often as we do know and there were fewer places to go.)  I vaguely remember that we bought quite a few things, but I only remember two things, and think of them when I think of the moonwalk.

Although it may have been available before, we bought a "new" rose called Peace that day. I remember thinking that it was such a wonderful name, one that matched it's delicate yellow and pink colors. (Read it's fascinating history at the link below.)  It's still a favorite of mine today, one I've purchased many times since. The special purchase that day was a color TV, our very first one. (Many shows were still black and white)  My guess is that perhaps my parents had recently received their tax refund or some lump amount of money because expensive shopping trips were definitely not the norm.  It was so exciting.

We were sent to bed early, but told they'd get us up when it was time. I was so worried for the astronauts that I had trouble falling asleep.  When we got up, that was the topic on TV of course. Walter Cronkite was our guide to all things historic back then and this was no exception.

it was quite ironic that we had a new color TV, as we used it to watch the fuzzy black and white video of men wearing white on a gray moon. It seemed an engineering marvel that we were able to actually see this video... and I suppose it was.  Even though I was still a child, I remember them planting the American flag on the moon.  "One small step for mankind. One giant leap for mankind." Oh, the possibilities...

One of the things that really interested me was the scope of the coverage and interest, from small towns across the country to big cities around the world - this was a worldwide event. After the moonwalk coverage, my younger sisters went back to bed - of their own choosing. But I begged to stay up to see more. They showed people all over the world gathered around a TV to see it. I remember seeing coverage of a lot of people on the sidewalk gathered around a shop window in some faraway country with this report on it. At another place, it was an interview with someone at the Royal Palace in London - how that touched my fancy! The reporters were in faraway places like Japan, Brazil, even Africa!

After the moonwalk, they had to be picked up for the trip home. That was a delicate undertaking, but obviously, one they accomplished. In the days that followed, there was TV coverage about the families waiting at home. No one knew what would happen to those that had been on the moon. Would they have some terrible germs? Once they arrived, they were quarantined for quite a while, just in case.

In terms of space travel, we've come a long way, reaching far, far out into the universe. We're unlocked mysteries and created new wonderings.  There's even an International Space Station, manned by people from around the world. But for all that, I'm not sure that we've really done things much more amazing than that trip to the moon so long ago.   It's hard to believe it's been that long.

Do you remember the moonwalk? what are your memories?

The History of the Rose called "Peace" 

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