In last month’s Quotes and Trivia Gems, I marked the 50th anniversary of the last episode of the Sci-Fi classic, Star Trek by sharing how the show influenced me and turned me into a certified “Trekkie”. This month is the 50th Anniversary of an actual outer space milestone – the Apollo 11 moon landing. Coincidence?
On July 20th, 1969, I was all of 13 years old. It was a beautiful July early morning and we were heading home from our TV-less cottage to watch someone actually walk on the moon. I watched the sky from the car window all the way home. It was one of those days when the moon was still visible in the daylight. It was almost as if the moon was leaving the lights on for visitors.
I remember thinking how brave those astronauts were to actually go “where no man has gone before.” – To step foot on a four-billion-year-old celestial body that witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires and the births and deaths of an infinity of creatures.
The moon is 384,400 kilometres from Earth, but it might as well have been a million miles away. It seemed so unreachable.
When we arrived home, we joined over 600 million people whose eyes were glued on whatever television was nearby to watch this monumental historical moment. Neil Armstrong was Commander, Buzz Aldrin was Lunar Module Pilot and Michael Collins was Command Module Pilot. It was from the Lunar Module, “The Eagle” that Armstrong radioed his famous first quote from the moon’s surface;
“Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed”
Seven hours later, at 09:32 EST, as his foot touched the lunar surface for the first time, he famously said,
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (The recent movie “First Man” accurately captures those moments surrounding Armstrong’s first moonwalk.)
The power that words wield struck me at that very moment. My lifelong fascination with quotes began when Neil Armstrong succinctly summarized this life-changing moment in eleven words.
Here is an archive video of a 1969 CBC interview with young children on their thoughts on the moon landing. 1969: Moon landing inspires Canadian children.
Apollo 11 Trivia
Four lesser-known fun facts about the expedition include;
Neil Armstrong carried with him to the moon a piece of wood from an aeroplane belonging to the Wright Brothers.
The planned landing spot in the Sea of Tranquility was littered with boulders and had to be changed at the last minute because of the problematic surface and in changing locations, the landing happened with only some 30 seconds of fuel to spare.
The declaration to customs on their return included “moon rocks and moon dust”.
All three astronauts were quarantined for twenty-one days on their return as scientists were unsure as to whether the moon was a sterile environment.
NASA just announced this past June that possibly as early as 2020, it will begin offering space tourism with visits to the International Space Station. Better start saving for that vacation now though. The cost is $59 million dollars. (headphones and food service extra.)
The first moon-landing changed the way we saw ourselves. We walked away from our TV sets thinking anything was possible. In the intervening fifty years since our optimism has waned as our memories faded. It seems progress entails taking two steps forward and one step back.
Overall, I believe we live in a better world than ever. While we face very daunting challenges, we’re up for it. With an attitude of “why not” instead of “why bother?”, we will find the courage and restore hope to make a better world.
In keeping with this inspirational anniversary, here are some of my favourite quotes that speak to hope, resilience and progress.
In closing, I leave you with this thought from Diversity Instructs the Human Possibility, Edith Sullwold to ponder.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
– Thomas Merton
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In case you missed last month’s Gems, you can check it out here: Your Monthly Quotes and Trivia Gems for June