On a humid July morning In 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin climbed aboard the most dangerous vehicle man had ever built, on a voyage to the moon.
I was two and half years old. I remember that day, or at least have convinced myself that I remember it, sitting in front of an old black and white television watching a streak of light hurtle towards the stars.
Like most boys growing up, I was fascinated by all things space (and dinosaurs of course). While interest in the Jurassic and Cretaceous eventually faded, the love of space and space travel, did not. Astronomy books, science-fiction novels, movies, I couldn’t get enough. I was a certified space geek.
When I went off to college I decided to study aerospace engineering, with the dream of working one day for NASA or JPL, but soon realized I was sorely lacking the discipline necessary for that field of study—more specifically, the math. And there was a lot of it. So I decided to pursue writing instead and switched over Journalism, which had only slightly more math than majoring in English. But my interest in all things space never waned.
Barely a year into my studies I watched horrified as the shuttle Challenger exploded in front of all our eyes, the ship and her brave crew scattering across the Atlantic. I didn’t attend class that day, not even the Astronomy elective I was taking. I remember President Reagan’s moving tribute later that evening: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God…”
There have certainly been other triumphs and disasters in our quest to explore beyond this pale blue dot we call home, but for me, none quite so much like the day humankind took their first steps on the moon.
Looking back over these past 5 decades as a man in his early 50s, I had hoped by now we would have at least planted a flag, any flag, in the red sands of Mars. But unfortunately, no. In fact it’s been 47 years since we last walked the on the moon. And now with less years in front of me than behind, it seems unlikely that either will happen, or happen again, in my lifetime.
But I am a space geek. And I am hopeful.
(Revised from a blog post I wrote on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing)