Monday, July 20, 2009

Anniversaries - Part 2

Forty years ago today, two Americans landed on the Moon in a frail, spidery vehicle like the one above. In my mind, it was the most remarkable achievement of the 20th century. A mere 66 years after the first sustained and controlled powered flight by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, NC, men walked on the surface of another celestial body. When the Apollo program ended, twelve Americans would stand on the lunar surface and fifteen more would orbit or loop around the Moon, including the crews of Apollos 8, 10 and the ill-fated 13. We've not been back since 1972.

Forty seems so long ago, and yet I remember that moment well. We stayed up all night watching Walter Cronkite - who ironically pasted away last Friday - as he anchored the CBS news coverage of that remarkable event. I remember being impatient with the delay between the landing and the walk, anxious to see Armstrong step onto the surface, of being transfixed by the ghostly images as he and Aldrin kangaroo-hopped on the Moon in glorious black and white. In retrospect the television quality was poor, but it was coming live from the Moon and at the time it was the most beautiful pictures I'd ever seen.

Forty years a perfect world we as a species should have been on Mars by now, with colonies on both it and the Moon and in orbit. But we don't live in a perfect world and the pace of grand exploration moves in fits and starts. The European expansion into the Western Hemisphere is a prime example. More succinctly, in the immortal lines from "The Right Stuff," "No bucks, no Buck Rogers." Human beings will return to the Moon someday, and step on Mars, but whether they will be American is another story. Oh, well....

In honor of the anniversary of this amazing event, I composed a haiku called:

Apollo 11 Memories

Ghostly images
of Astronauts on the Moon,
Saluting the Flag.

Incidentally, I shot the above image at the Kennedy Space Center during our 2002 trip to Florida. We were hoping to catch the Shuttle launch scheduled for that day, but it was postponed to a later date.

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