My earliest memory is of watching the Apollo 11 moon landing with my father at a diner in Vermont. We had stopped to pick up some meatball parm sandwiches for the family on our annual drive to visit friends in New Hampshire. As we waited for our sandwiches, we watched the events unfold on the little black and white TV in the sandwich shop.
Now whether we were watching the actual landing at 4:18 PM on Sunday, July 20, 1969 or the first moon walk at 10:56 AM on Monday July 21, 1969 remains a mystery, as both hours could potentially require a stop for meatball parm subs. Of course, I was barely four years old at the time, so I wonder if this memory is even real. But I can see the TV, the layout of the place, and even remember the excitement of getting a meatball parm sandwich – far more compelling to a four-year-old than men visiting the moon.
But given all the problems we face today, all the challenges and injustices in the world, it is a great comfort to think that we were able to put men on the moon, a task so staggeringly difficult that you really need some degree of scientific understanding to fully appreciate it. And we did so with less technology than I now carry around in my pocket 44 years later.
It also gives me tremendous hope to think that, just 66 years after man managed to fly for the first time, we flew men all the way to the moon and back. The Wright brothers made it 120 feet, while the Apollo 11 mission covered 953,054 miles. That’s quite the giant leap for mankind.
Fun Fact #1:
Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon (though the first to pee there). The photo above is of Aldrin, taken by Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon. Aldrin’s father was a good friend of Orville Wright. Yes, that Orville Wright, one of the Wright brothers who built and flew the first plane 66 years earlier.
Fun Fact #2:
The Apollo 11 crew had initially nicknamed their command module Charlie Brown and the lunar lander Snoopy. NASA objected, so they went with the still tongue-in-cheek Snowcone and Haystack. That still wasn’t serious enough for the suits, who ended up “suggesting” Columbia and Eagle to them – the names eventually used. Had they not, the funny men we sent to the moon might have famously radioed back: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. Snoopy has landed.”