Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Are You Waiting For?!

Wow. I was only 10 years old at the time, but I remember the Apollo 11 mission about as vividly as I remember anything in my life. The majestic views of the skyscraper-size Saturn V on the launching pad. The spectacular launch on 7/16, replayed endlessly from numerous vantage points. The special bulletins on TV and radio as the spacecraft approached the moon. The docking with the Lunar Excursion Module. And finally, the touchdown, which I watched on our brand new color television—never mind that all the images from outer space were coming over in murky black and white.

You could see a circular blob outside the LEM windows, which might have been a pad of the landing legs on the dirty gray lunar surface. Endless voice transmissions back and forth. The same view out the LEM window...endlessly. On and on. "What are you bleeping waiting for?" I remember hollering at the TV. "You're on the moon! Get out there and bounce around in reduced gravity!" I was terrified that if they kept dicking around, the astronauts weren't going to get out of the LEM till after my bedtime, and I'd miss the whole historic business.

Much to my relief, my folks said I could stay up as long as it took. But that hardly assuaged my impatience. WHAT WERE THESE DADBLAMED ASTRONAUTS WAITING FOR? They were on THE MOON, for cryin' out loud!

Ah, such exuberance. Well, it probably didn't take nearly as long as it seemed before Neil Armstrong clambered out of the landing module and took that historic first step on extraterrestrial soil. And when, at last, he spoke that one memorable line—very possibly the most famous utterance in human history—I jumped from the couch and began running in circles around the house.

I should so love to have a moment like that again in my life. A life-defining and life-affirming moment. An experience that breaks down the very high, very hardened wall of cynicism and confirms that we, as a species, can achieve greatness when we set our minds to it. Something unspoiled by a media capable focusing on the constructive rather than the destructive and the dividing.

One can still dream. But I was fortunate that I was there, if only in my living room, when all this unfolded, forty years ago. It was a giant step in my own life.

3 comments:

Bob Fleck said...

Indeed one of the most affirming moments in history. Plus, it made for THE best first birthday in history.

ArmandV said...

I was 15 at the time and audio-taped the launch. I still have that tape. A & E had "Moonwalk, As It Happened" with Edwin Newman for the 20th anniversary. I'll watch that tonight.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I remember the magazines that came after the moon launch. I recall seeing the most astonishing vivid pictures in Life or Look, or whatever it was back then. I also recall the special editions that hit the shelves. Strange time.