I was two and a half years old when Apollo 11 lifted off on July 16, 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center. On board were Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, all veterans of other prior space travel (Gemini 8, Gemini 10, and Gemini 12, respectively). All three served in the military, the Navy and Air Force. Additionally, Buzz Aldrin is a graduate from West Point.
As many families at the time, we sat around the television four days later, and watched the Moon Landing. I have no real memory of any of this except possibly a shadowy vision of a small child’s eye view, sitting on the carpeted floor of a living room, staring up at a black and white television. Watching a replay of this on a modern color TV would be no different in coloration save for the eventual planting of the red, white, and blue American flag.
I can’t say for certain, but I feel as though this introduction to the space race was one of the major impetuses for my long lasting love of science-fiction and fantasy and especially space travel and life on other planets, shown deeply through my love of Star Trek, Doctor Who, visiting planetariums, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, staring in wonder at Orion and, once a month, the full moon. It touches my life inexorably and sometimes unexpectedly. I’ve had the privilege to have sat in an original Captain’s Chair from the USS Enterprise while at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC as well as a perfect replica in a set tour in Ticonderoga, New York.
When astronauts, Neil and Buzz stepped onto the moon, my two plus year old self was less concerned with one small step for man, but how did Uncle Neil and Uncle Buzz (the names of my father’s brothers) get on the moon. Whether apocryphal or based in some remembrance of a true event, this anecdote has followed me for all of my fifty-two and a half years, more brought up by myself in more recent years as a bit of family folklore.
Apollo 11 launched on July 16, and was recovered in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, and in between those eight short days, the United States became the first country to land on the moon, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first and second astronauts to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. There have been many more visits to space and to the moon; there will probably be more visits if the explorers take the lead again and push the boundaries of the new frontiers, but there will never be another first. That, for all of history will be held by Apollo 11, happening fifty years ago today.
Some further reading and research can be found as follows:
Manned Lunar Landing and Return (50 Years Ago)