Monday, July 20, 2009

Moon plus 40

It took eight years to get a human on the Moon ,from the time President  Kennedy threw down the gauntlet. I  did not know one person who did not believe that we could do it. I admit that most people I knew in those days also believed in the Easter Bunny and slept with recently pulled teeth under their pillows, but I recall most all adults believed that it would happen too.


There was a lot of optimism in those days. Very little of the cynicism which was brought on by the Vietnam War and Watergate and never left America. It was a very cool time to be alive if you did not mind waking up every morning wondering if this was the day that a nuclear war was going to start, turning you into ashes at your school desk. That was the bad part. The good part was that we always thought we’d win the war in those days.


I digress, as I said it took eight years to get to the moon and we have not been back in 37 ! I always thought that after we landed on the moon we’d end up traveling there a lot and I believed that by the year 2000 we would be able to stay in a hotel up there and bounce around like kangaroos. It never happened. We went up there and looked around a bit and then forgot about it. In a way it was like climbing Mt. Everest. Once you prove you can do it, why go back? The view will not have changed much. Still, that was an awful lot of time, effort and money to pull the plug so fast.


Nothing, I repeat, nothing that has happened since 1969 has been as exciting or satisfying as the moon landing was to Americans. Mostly it was a relief. We had to overtake the Commies in the space race and beat them up there. That was a huge deal. A Soviet flag on the Moon would have been the most demoralizing thing that could have happened. It so demoralized the Soviet Union that they gave up their plans to go and have never been up there. Only Americans have been on the Moon. No Soviet will ever make it for the simple reason that no Soviets are left. I suspect that the next human on the moon will be Chinese. Hopefully at the time of the Lunar New Year, so we can have one of those big parties snake dancing down the street, setting off fire crackers, behind a paper Mache dragon. I have always wanted to do that.


Interestingly, a summer storm in Houston had knocked out lights all over our neighborhood. But our house’s lights were still on. Consequently, numerous  friends from the affected areas came over that night to our home. That made the event very memorable. Lots of friends cheering and enjoying themselves. All of us watching those ghostly white figures plant a flag on a world with no wind and listen to Richard Nixon talk to the Astronauts on the “longest long distance phone call in history.” One of the sad byproducts of the moon landing was the fact that the first object left behind on the moon with a name on it, bore the name of Richard Nixon. Oh well, you take the good with the bad. Nixon presided over all of the moon landings and then cut NASAs budget so that they could never do it again. I guess he wanted his name to be the only one up there. Although the truth of the matter is they sort of ran out of things to do on the lunar surface. The last guys took to sneaking golf balls up there to see how far they could drive a ball in a non atmosphere. That kind of signaled the end as far as I was concerned. I recall children crabbing at that time because moonwalks were interrupting the regularly scheduled T.V. shows. It was, perhaps, time to move on.


Move on to what ? Nothing that we were capable of doing could ever top that for excitement. Yet, thousands of things have happened in the last forty years that are much, much more beneficial to our species than landing on the moon. They always tried to sell the cost of the moon landing as something that would help us all out. I don’t know of any material way that the space race  touched my life, except for the early invention of Tang, and I have not had a glass of Tang since before the lunar landing. I suppose that a lot of money was spent and effort used that could have gone to something more valuable. What if we and the Soviets had taken all of that money and put it into fighting hunger. It would not have ended hunger, but I suspect that at the very least hundreds of thousands who starved would still be alive. We used to talk about that stuff all the time in 1969.  But no one in those days would have traded the moon for a few hundred thousand lives. I guess that’s very sad, but that’s the way it was on July 20, 1969. You could look it up.


Blogger Paul D. Frazier said...

Forty years ago this evening was a night to remember. I expected humankind to step on the moon though. I would have been disappointed if we didn't make it to the moon by 1970. It was one of the happiest moments of my father's life however.

But what took my breath away was the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 (20 years ago this year) and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. I didn't expect that in my lifetime.

11:05 PM  

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