The moon has always been a source of fascination for us human beings. In days long past we feared it as it would come and go in our night sky. We blamed it for bad crops, droughts, disease and we romanticized it in our writings and songs. As a child I remember looking up at the moon squinting to see that face of the “Man in the Moon” and would laugh when told by well meaning adults that it was made of green cheese. For most the moon was our nightly companion crossing the dark star filled skies always there always bright. But for scientists it always seemed just out of reach and offered more questions than answers.
Then on July 20th 1969 that all changed. In the blink of an eye the moon became something human beings could finally touch….so to speak. For the first time mankind had successfully journeyed to another world…we had proven that with determination and courage humanity was capable of doing anything we set our minds to.
I remember sitting in front of my TV mesmerized by those fuzzy black and white images beamed back to Earth from the moon. We were actually seeing pictures from another world. Then the entire world held its breath as an American astronaut named Neil Armstrong slowly made his way down what looked to be a flimsy ladder. He stopped at the last rung for a heartbeat then dropped very unceremoniously down to the lunar surface. There was a beep, than a static filled transmission that said,”That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind.” Not only had we just seen a man from Earth first step on an alien world but we also heard him speak across the void between our two worlds. Science Fiction had finally become science fact.
The United States would send 24 more men to the moon and 12 of them would have the honor to walk and drive on the lunar surface but none would be as spectacular as the first. Neil Armstrong had dared to go “Where no one had gone before” and for that and much more, secured a prominent place in the annals of the history of humanity. He was not only a pioneer and trail blazer but a true hero.
I am sure all of you know by now that Neil Armstrong passed away last weekend at the age of 82. Even though he is now gone he will never be forgotten. His bravery, courage and self sacrifice have been woven into the very fabric of our society, his deeds into our history. He has earned his place to stand tall with the likes of George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart and the rest of those pioneers that bravely stepped into the abyss of the unknown and made this country stronger for it. Today they are a rare breed and those that are still with us should be cherished.
Neil Armstrong’s footprint in the grey dust of the moon will stand as a testament of what man can achieve if we are willing to take the risk. We need to remember that today because this country was founded by those that were willing to risk everything for the greater good. Visionaries who saw beyond the obvious and far into the unknown.
Now when I look up at the evening sky and watch as our nightly companion makes it way across the star filled skies I won’t have to squint to see the anonymous face of “The Man in the Moon.” And that face is no longer anonymous. To me it will always be the smiling face of Neil Armstrong.
Joel Shurkin, a writer said, “I always hoped I would be alive to see the first man walk on the moon. I was, and I got to write about it. I never thought I also would be alive to see the last man land on the moon.”
Let’s hope none of us live to see that day.
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” Neil Armstrong