Monday, July 20, 2009

If you believe they put a man on the moon...

Apollo 11 astronaut

It seems surreal to think that it's been 40 years since man first landed on the moon and that the last man to walk on the moon did so in December of 1972. I seem to remember it all so vividly. The daytime air was hot in the summer camp I attended -- Blue Star-- nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the time the music of Led Zeppelin was making the rounds on portable phonograph players found in the various boys and girls cabins and at the recreation hall at the Teen Age Village (TAV) that late July. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" was all the rage among the girls from Miami and I did my best to try to be cool to them. It turns out I was losing some of my awkwardness with the girls that summer. I had landed the role of Nicely Nicely Johnson in a production of "Guys and Dolls" that we put on early in the summer and by the end of the next session I was starring in "The Mouse That Roared" as Tully Bascombe. The girls liked the leading man, it would seem, although I was not nearly the tall and dark stranger many envisioned in their dreams. Nevertheless, I was enjoying my popularity. Because we were largely without TV during camp, we were sheltered from much of what was going on in the outside world. I am sure that we would have been much more excited had the camp allowed us to see the launch and kept us up-to-date on the progress that had been made prior to lunar touchdown. But they had a camp to run and I can understand why more attention wasn't paid. I guess they couldn't get away from the historic import of a terran man walking on the surface of his nearest neighbor in space. I must say I was filled with pride and patriotism. I couldn't help but think that maybe this would show the Soviet Union who really was the better superpower. This was, after all, a young teenager whose impressions were shaped by the Cold War and the threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD). In the end I should have seen that this had nothing to do with man-made borders, but instead with those imposed by the Almighty. Breaking the bonds of gravity and freeing ourselves to explore the solar system was but one tenuous step that man had taken and it didn't really matter which nation led that charge. All of us on Planet Earth would be forever changed as a result of what happened that July of 1969 and what has or hasn't happened since. Forty years is a long time for us to be in a holding pattern. The International Space Station has yet to come into fruition, but it is further along and is being shaped by a truly international team, not through the efforts of but one country. I like that. It hearkens back to the vision Gene Roddenberry had of a united Earth when he started the Star Trek legacy. Perhaps one day when it is much easier for us to do so, we will all have the chance to slip "the surly bonds of earth" that Gillespie Magee wrote of during World War II and "touch the face of God."

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