Monday, July 20, 2009

July 20, 1969

Forty years ago today, I sat at a picnic table at Potawatomi State Park in Wisconsin and watched as Neil Armstrong left the lunar module and made the first human footprint on the moon's surface.
My family left Milwaukee that morning on a two-week camping trip around Wisconsin. My folks felt it was too important of an event to miss, so we brought along our portable tee-vee so we could watch the moon walk.
I grew up in a pretty "Space Race/New Frontier" sort of atmosphere: my birth year coincided with Sputnik's launch. The silver-y snow suit I wore as a toddler was a "space suit". I remember watching John Glenn's orbit and asking my mom a typical six-year-old's question: "How do they go to the bathroom?" (Answer: "They take a pill"....good one, Mom!). Many years later, I remember sneaking out of work, to a co-worker's van, in order to watch the first Space Shuttle liftoff. Even now, I find it exciting to hear the sonic boom of the Shuttle when it makes a landing at Edwards AFB.
Dale grew up in a aerospace family--his dad was on the team that designed and built the AESEP and ALSEP modules for the Apollo program, as well as taking part in the development of the Lunar Rover used in later Apollo missions.
Here are a few of the mementoes of his:

How exciting that must have been, to be involved in such an historic endeavor? The South Bay (that's what the area where I live is called) is home to a number of aerospace companies. Sunday's Daily Breeze had a good article on what it was like back then, working on these early space programs. Everyone felt such a sense of duty and excitement.
Times are different now, so many things have shadowed the space program. Sure, our country has too many problems and not enough money, but I really do think we need to have something like this lofty goal--not just to be "the first"-- but something to capture the imagination and inspire people and now that the Shuttle is winding down I hope that we find again that compelling sense of purpose to pursue the exploration of space.


john said...

( Just read Your J S O L ) I have always thought that it is very important to " Reach out to the stars ". I can't understand how some think " IT DIDN'T HAPPEN ". The designers, which included Jim Evans, have this drive to find out how and why we are. Remember Carl Sagen & his explanations. Gets the gray matter to work a little. ( I've located our 8mm movie film of the '69 trip. Will let you know what it has to tell.)

Miss Healthypants said...

It must have been such an exciting time to be alive! :) Unfortunately, at the time, I was just a glimmer in my Dad's eye. *smiles*

MaryRuth said...

Dad--thanks to you and Mom for giving Andi and me the "curiosity-gene". I too can't understand the skeptics. Dale says "all that faking put food on our table and clothes on our backs--how fake is that?" That trip was a good one, I'd like to see the film.
MHP--oh, you youngins...=) It was a great time to be a kid, that's for sure.