Today marks the 47th anniversary of man’s first walk on the surface of the moon. The historic lunar landing and subsequent moonwalk by astronaut Neil Armstrong will forever be remembered as the major turning point in our race for space. Although Armstrong died back in 2012 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 set the stage for further space exploration. Even now a manned Mars visit is in the works.
Those were exciting times. The space race with the Soviet Union which began in 1957 was raging full bore. I remember when I was about 8 years old my best friend and I made a space capsule out of a large cardboard refrigerator box. we cut out a viewing window and drew our own instrument panel on the inside walls. Then we laid two dining room table chairs on their backs beneath the cut out window and climbing inside. Within minutes we had blasted off and were soon orbiting the globe. Our parents even let us spend the night in our capsule. It wasn’t very comfortable but man oh man, it was sure a lot of fun! On nights when the evening news would announce that a manned orbiting space capsule would be passing overhead, we would hurry outside at the appointed hour and gaze skyward in hopes of seeing it pass. Although it was only a speck of light moving slowly across the heavens, it was incredible.
It’s crazy just how naive we were then, how little we knew about space travel. When I was around twelve I experienced my first colored sky and had no idea what I was witnessing. The colored streaks in the sky were mysterious and out of place and scared the crap out of me! I actually thought it was a sign that the world was ending! Having gone to Catholic school all my life and forever warned by the nuns that the end was near, I was certain that at any moment the sky would open up and JC Himself would emerge followed by a host of angels! I remember praying like I’d never prayed before! Hey I was just a kid! How was I to know the colors were the result of gases in the atmosphere and caused by a missile launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc. What did I 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.
So later this evening take a moment to go outside and take a long, hard look at the moon (which happens to be full right now) and remember that day 47 years ago when we watched a man named Armstrong walk upon the moon.
Just a Thought…