Fifty years ago I spent every minute from 9 am yesterday until the 24th of July glued to the Television set. I waited to hear what Walter Cronkite had to say. Apollo 11 was launched yesterday a little after 9 am EDT. That small launch changed everything. We fulfilled with five months to spare the promise of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. That we would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade (his promise was made in 1963) and return him safely. In the modern world, we would have used person and them, gender-specific pronouns are something we watch now. But then it was a man. In particular, it was three men who risked everything to do something that had never been done before.
To leave footprints on the surface of the moon.
Neil Armstrong and his copilot Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon on the afternoon of July 20. I had been glued to their progress and was waiting for the words. Houston Tranquillity Base here, The Eagle has landed. The LEM or Lunar Module had been dubbed the Eagle. They, Apollo 11, were landing in the Lunar Sea of Tranquility. It was not a sea but called that many years before. The early observations of the moon and Mars were limited by the quality of the devices used. As Telescopes got better, humans saw more and more. But the first viewers had already selected the names. So, Apollo 11 landed in a sea that was not a sea, although it was tranquil.
My dad would come home from university and ask me for an update each day. I would pass along what Walter Cronkite had told us. I don’t remember the name of the science reporter whom Walter Cronkite called upon, but his words hung in the air around me. I watched the descent of the Eagle from the command module orbiting the moon. I listened to the gaps with fear and trepidation. Each 30-second pause (radio signal from earth to the moon, then back was 30 seconds or more) becoming more a tenser. Until the fateful words were heard, that moment was glorious. It was a triumph that would change the world forever. I was watching the day an Eagle landed on the moon.