I love the moonlight, particularly the light of a full moon. There is nothing quite like a moonlit walk along the beach or simply sitting in the backyard enjoying a cool drink, bathed in moonlight. Awesome! Did you know that this month we get to experience not one but two full moons! Our first was on August 2nd and our next will be this Friday August 31st. Although it sounds unusual a two moon month actually occurs about 7 times over a 19 year period or once every two and a half years. When this occurs the 2nd full moon is called a ‘blue moon’ and is where the phrase “once in a blue moon” comes from.
How coincidental is it that former astronaut Neil Armstrong the first man to ever walk on the surface of the moon died last Saturday in a ‘blue moon’ month? The Moon Man died from complications resulting from heart surgery he underwent a few weeks before. Although he has passed on, he will forever be remembered for his historic moon walk and those first words he spoke as he step off of the ladder of the lunar landing ship onto the moon’s surface, “That’s a small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” And so it was. That small step was inspirational and put us ahead in the cold war, space race with the Soviets that had been raging since 1957. It also set the stage for space travel for decades to come. Even now a manned Mars visit is being planned.
Yes, that successful lunar landing changed it all for American space travel and made Armstrong a national hero, albeit a reluctant one. He never really enjoyed all the attention. In fact two years after his historic moon walk Armstrong retired from NASA and taught at the university level. His trip to the moon was his last venture into space.
The news of Neil’s death stirred up a lot of ‘space’ memories for me. I remember nights when the evening news would announce that the manned space capsule orbiting the Earth would be passing overhead and at the appointed hour hurrying outside and gazing skyward in hopes of seeing it pass. And although it was only a speck of light moving slowly across the heavens, it was very exciting. I remember my best friend and I making a space capsule out of a large cardboard box, then spending the night in it as we pretended to be astronauts orbiting the globe. It wasn’t very comfortable but it was a lot of fun!
It’s crazy just how naive we were then. When I was around twelve I experienced my first colored sky. I actually thought it was the end of the world! How was I to know the colors were the result of gases in the atmosphere and caused by a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. At the time the colored streaks in the sky were mysterious and out of place. They scared the crap out of me! Having gone to a Catholic school all my life I was certain that at any moment the sky would open up and JC Himself would emerge followed by a host of angels! Hey I was just a kid! I didn’t know!
Then in the summer of 1969 which I will always remember as the best summer of my life, Armstrong walked on the moon. On Sunday evening July 20th the world watched in awe as Armstrong descended from the landing module and set foot on the moon. Do you remember where you were when it happened? I was one of several teens huddled around a small portable TV in front of the First Presbyterian Church in Azusa. Like most Sundays we were there for the teen youth group meeting and activities. The director Mr. Hardy had brought out the TV so we wouldn’t miss the moon news coverage.
I was in awe as I watched Armstrong walking on the moon surface. It seemed so unbelievable! And of course there were plenty of conspiracy theorist who later claimed the entire thing was an elaborate hoax played out by the government and was actually being telecast from somewhere in the Mojave Desert. I’m sure there will always be those who question the authenticity of the moon landing, but for me seeing is believing. That grainy black and white footage plays on in my head. I remember wondering what it must feel like to be up there looking back at our blue planet. Can you imagine? Armstrong was the first man on the moon and for nearly twenty minutes he was the only man on the surface until he was finally joined by Buzz Aldrin.
I have never forgotten the image of Armstrong standing alone on the moon. He looked so small with the vastness of space behind him. Since his lunar stroll whenever I look up at the moon, particularly a full moon, I recall that image of Armstrong and realize just how small and insignificant we all really are in the big scheme of things. Our existence is nothing more than a smattering of moments when you consider that our universe is nearly 15 billion years old. Time is fleeting my friends, don’t let it get away from you. We have a finite number of days to make a difference. Neil Armstrong the reluctant hero did just that and serves as an example that through hard work and diligence dreams do come true.
The following statement was made by Armstrong’s family in tribute to him. “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
Just a Thought