“She died of suffocation in her own air void. It took her at least three or four hours to die.”
Man ascended to the glorious heavens and sank to the murky depths 50 years ago this weekend. The juxtaposition serves as a metaphor for modern times, when our technology races to infinity and beyond as our behavior periodically knuckle-drags toward barbarism.
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and a few hours later, on July 21, Neil Armstrong, and then Buzz Aldrin, bounced on the regolith-over-rock surface of our only natural satellite. They spent more than 21 hours walking on the moon. The hard part followed the pedestrian part. The Eagle took off, linked up with the Apollo 11 command module in lunar orbit, returned to Earth’s gravitational pull, and splashed down in the Pacific.
Less than 66 years after the Wright brothers’ first flight and 42 years after Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic solo in the Spirit of St. Louis, man had somehow flown to a heavenly body without water, oxygen, and atmosphere 239,000 miles away — taking a stroll, planting a flag, and collecting nearly 50 pounds of souvenirs while there. What boys reading Galaxy Science Fiction, listening to Dimension X, and visiting Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland dreamed about in the early 1950s they accomplished as men in the late 1960s.
Perhaps President John Kennedy most embodied this “If you can dream it, do it” mentality. While Eisenhower had launched the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, his successor dared pledge his nation to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, a pronouncement not without the possibility of egg-on-the-face consequences given the decided possibility that the same Soviets who beat us putting a man in space would also beat us to the moon. Ironically, the same weekend Americans amazingly fulfilled Kennedy’s audacious promise, the promise of Camelot was extinguished. more