Sunday, July 19, 2009

Item From the Past: Men on the Moon, Me in Ardmore

Usually I only post my own pictures here, but today I have to make an exception. It's a public domain photo, of course, borrowed from NASA's web site, and probably the most famous photo of a footprint ever made. Or more exactly, a bootprint. But it speaks volumes.

On July 20, 1969, the summer I turned eight, I arrived in Ardmore, Oklahoma, having accompanied my Uncle Ken, Aunt Sue and Cousin Ralph in their car from San Antonio. I was to stay with them for a week or so before my family picked me up and we took our own trip around the South. Last month, I visited some of those same places, including my Aunt Sue's home, where I'd watched the Apollo XI lunar landing unfold 40 years earlier.

I'm sure we heard about the descent of Armstrong and Aldrin to the lunar surface on the car radio as we drove north. I remember my Uncle Ken (RIP, uncle) doubting that we would make it to their house in time for the actual landing. But we did make it. I've heard the words so many times since then that I can't remember the first experience, but I know I heard them then: "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."

That's the phrase that clinched it; there was still uncertainty about the landing before that. "One small step" was a good enough line, but it was only icing on the cake.

Anniversaries are times to remember, and Apollo XI's 40th is getting a lot of play. Maybe the unspoken, melancholy fact is that Armstrong and Aldrin, or many of the other seven surviving Moon walkers, may not be with us when the 50th anniversary rolls around. Interestingly, every jack man of them except for Alan Shepard was born in the 1930s.

Never mind that now. I'll always be glad I am old enough to remember Apollo XI and all the others.

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