Monday, July 20, 2009

Remembering the First Moon Landing, Today and Everyday

As many have already noted, and many more will note, today marks the 40th anniversary of the first human being setting foot on the moon. Perhaps those who remember the moon landing will remember feeling about like this, but for many of my generation, born years after the last landing, the fact that humanity has been to the moon is as mundane as Hiroshima or Watergate.

However, I've never ceased to be amazed at the events of (and the years leading up to) 1969. I was one of those numerous children who grew up looking at the stars and wanting to be an astronaut (my father's amateur astronomy hobby giving me a slightly more scientific edge in my desire than kids who just dressed up as spacemen), and although 1969 seemed like forever ago in the 80s, it was closer to the moon landing than it is to today. The moon landing in particular always amazed me, and I still carry much of that childhood wonder as an adult: it's rare that I'll see a full moon and not stop and gaze and wonder what it must have been like for (fellow Ohioan - that's the spaceman on the Ohio state quarter) Neil Armstrong and all those who followed him, to see, "feel," experience life on the moon. I've never understood the devotion of the six percent who believe Apollo 11 (and the subsequent moon landings) was a hoax (which I've never understood nor believed, and not just because every "proof" that the landings were faked has been demonstrably shown false, but because, if we were able to actually get humans to fly further into space than any other manned mission by sheer improvisation across 4 days, as we did with Apollo 13, then I'm pretty sure we could have figured out how to land on the moon with 8 years of planning). The moon landing is still such an amazing story on so many levels. I'm certainly a cynic in most things, but I'll never grasp the cynicism that refuses to accept the overwhelming evidence of one of humanity's greatest accomplishments.

People will look back nostalgically and with wonderment today, but it will fade; yet for me, I will always think of that event as amazing, not just because humanity pulled off what still strikes me as an amazing feat of astronomy; for all of the terrible things people have done with their knowledge, from nuclear weapons to genocide, from state-sponsored terrorism to fundamentalist terrorist attacks, for all of that, the moon landing and the innovation and invention it took will always remind me of the positive side of human inventiveness and ability. For that reason, whether we return to the moon, or to Mars, or anywhere else, I will always share the wonderment and amazement that humans did it first in 1969.