My earliest memory in life is about the moon landing and I suppose it has had hold of me ever since. I was about 3 and a half years old and my parents, barely in their 20′s, sat me down in front of the television and made sure that I watched history being made. I remember my mother telling me how important this was and to watch it. I don’t remember much else that happened during my first five years but I remember that event and my fascination with the moon story and desire to see it happen again have never diminished. The fact that I was THERE, and lived during the moment of mankind’s greatest achievement still staggers my mind at times. What I don’t remember was the part where they said something on television about “LOX” and my mother wondered aloud what that was and I turned to her and said “liquid oxygen” and turned back to the TV. She has enjoyed telling that story over the years.
How would a three-plus year old know that? Well, I was very lucky when I was a child. I had an aunt and uncle that lived in Huntsville Alabama during the time all that was going on. They were blessed with three daughters, all older than me but like big sisters who I tagged around after. My uncle Mack was the kind of father to his girls that I try hard to be with my son. Whenever I visited, he spent a lot of time with me and I made frequent trips from Atlanta over to Huntsville to stay with them. He was a rocket scientist and project coordinator working on the staff of Dr. Wernher von Braun at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and had been actively involved in the creative process that ultimately led to the Saturn V and the Apollo missions. He was very excited about the work he was doing and he had a way of being able to explain the entire space program to a small child in a way that a child could understand it. I remember well the Apollo mission pop-up book he gave me after the Apollo 11 mission and I already understood how it all worked from his demonstrations and talking to me about it. My family said I could ask him a hundred questions about it and he never got tired of answering them so I apparently soaked up everything he said like a sponge. Through him, even as a child, I felt attached to the space program and the moon landings.
In later years, he told me about the space shuttle before it was even built-I think it was still in concept then-but that it would be a space vessel that would take off like a rocket and land like a plane. I remember well the model of the Saturn V he had displayed in his home and one just like it is in my home now. Sadly, he died of cancer when I was 8 and I didn’t get to grow up learning more and more about the space program from him but the things he taught me and the love of the space program he passed on to me are still very much with me. I follow with interest anything that has to do with the moon and I had hoped (and still do) to one day see a moon landing mission again and share that experience with my son.
When human beings take on such an endeavor, the men who did that then and the women and men who will do that in the future take with them the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all humankind. It took thousands of people to get Apollo in the air, to the moon and back again-people like Uncle Mack and those he worked with all the way down to the factory workers who made the nuts and bolts that held it all together. No single effort has ever drawn upon the expertise of so many individuals to make it a reality. Our knowledge and our science advanced more during the 1960′s than in our entire history before that decade. Many of the advances we enjoy today were born during that incredible leap of science and technology that ultimately put our footprints upon the surface of the moon. Every night we see the moon in the sky, it should serve as a reminder that there is far more up there to discover and far more out there waiting for each us. For those reasons, I hope we will not abandon our course towards exploring the heavens and our place in it.