50 years after the moon, what brings us together?

Fifty years ago today, the United States landed a spacecraft on the moon. Four hours later, astronaut Neil Armstrong would take the first human steps on the moon’s surface.

Glued to a television set at my grandparent’s house, where our whole family had assembled, I watched with wide eyes as Armstrong first said this now famous statement: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Writing those words today still sends shivers through me, remembering that warm evening.

The event was historic for many reasons.

First and most obvious, it placed the U.S. “head and shoulders” above Russia in the space race. At a time when the Cold War was near its height, the achievement was significant.

Second, there always has been a fascination with space. Imagine then the intensity of seeing Armstrong actually leave the Lunar Module and take that first stop on the moon’s surface.

Third, advances in technology (although still rather crude) allowed for much of the world to see the walk in real time as it was broadcast from the moon into our living rooms. No, the images weren’t great. Yes, they were quite grainy. If any of us were complaining that night, however, I don’t remember hearing it.

As I think back to that night for me, I am intrigued by the impact it had on all of us.

y family obviously understood the historic implications of the event. Why else would we be all gathered together that evening around the television set? I wonder, if something of equal importance were to occur today, whether that still would hold true. And, if it did, would people be able to tear themselves away from their phones, tablets or laptops long enough to watch it unfold together?

As a teenager, I already had a good idea of what career path I wanted to pursue. Evidence of that was the reel-to-reel tape recorder I operated that evening, recording the broadcast to have and hold onto for all prosperity. Or so I thought. Years later, after returning home and exploring long-forgotten corners of my childhood home’s attic, I discovered the old reel-to-reel. The intense heat of the poorly vented attic had taken its toll on the tape, making it a victim of good intentions but poor planning.

As a teenager 50 years ago, it was indeed an interesting summer. Man walks on the moon. Vietnam protests ramp up as Richard Nixon becomes president. British troops are deployed to Northern Ireland following increasing unrest. Charles Manson and his Helter Skelter followers murder five people in California. Sen. Ted Kennedy, in an auto accident in Chappaquiddick, drives a car that plunges into a pond. A female passenger was killed in the accident. And of course, Woodstock.

But that would come weeks later.

Fifty years ago today, Earth defied gravity as the world stood still and watched.

“One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.