Saturday, July 20, 2019

One small step

Buzz Aldrin captured Neil Armstrong's image in visor
"The Eagle has landed" is the phrase these two astronauts radioed back to Earth when the landing module (named Eagle) touched down on the lunar surface. Today is the fiftieth anniversary of that momentous day, and who alive then doesn't remember just where they were when it happened? I was in my mid-twenties, a housewife and secretary, and since it happened on a Sunday, I was at home watching the entire event play out on TV.

I have just spent the last hour reading different articles commemorating the anniversary, and remembering what I felt when it happened. It was simply mind-boggling that we tiny humans had made it to another planet within my lifetime. Of course, we all thought that it was just the beginning of space travel, but after a total of 12 different men walked on the moon and returned, it just fizzled. We were in the throes of the Vietnam War at the time, and many other things were deemed more important. And I can only imagine how much all that space travel cost: why, it was probably more than the war effort. (I don't really want to know, but I do sometimes wonder why we gave up space travel so easily.)

Today, I also found out that an astonishing 5% of Americans don't believe it ever happened. There are lots of articles laying out the most common conspiracy theories. I'll leave it to my readers who might be interested in them to do a little research on your own. It's quite fascinating.
Flag "blowing" in nonexistent breeze
I well remember seeing this picture and also wondering why the flag was moving without an atmosphere. In case you wondered, it wasn't: it was wired to look like it was blowing in the breeze. I learned from this article (from The Atlantic) that when the Eagle module took off, the exhaust caused the flag to fall into the moondust. And what does it look like now?
The flag, made of nylon, was an off-the-shelf purchase. Unlike Earth, the moon lacks an atmosphere capable of blocking out the worst of the sun’s rays. It wouldn’t have taken long for the ultraviolet light to eat away at the dye and bleach the flag white. 
Well, maybe it's time for us to go back and plant some new improved flags! In any event, it's a wonderful event to mark, and I'm privileged to still be around to celebrate it fifty years later.


  1. I have seen some of the conspiracy theories. Sigh.
    We hired a television (we didn't have one at the time) to watch the momentous occasion.

  2. I don't remember, I was just 6 years old -although a lot of my peers do remember. I'm one of those non believers, not because of any conspiracy theories, just because I know human's inherent urge to conquer and I can't believe if we made it once we wouldn't have gone back and on to new planets, etc., no matter the cost. I grew up reading science fiction and firmly believed by this time in my life, we would have affordable space travel. It's one of my biggest regrets.

  3. I remember. I was working at Boeing and they filled the cafeteria in our building with TV's so we could all watch it. Amazing stuff.

  4. This was exciting but it didn't take us anyplace. It's great to look back at that day.

  5. A giant step for mankind indeed and a huge accomplishment.

  6. Tom and I were newlyweds. We watched the landing on a little black and white TV that we brought to the Whidbey Island cabin where we had just celebrated my 25th birthday. Today at our 50/75 celebration we marked that event too, remembering where we were and how we felt when we heard those words, "The Eagle has landed". There was a big collective sigh of relief when we knew the astronauts had landed safely.

  7. I was fifteen and babysitting that night. The couple had gone to a family wedding and didn’t get home until the early morning hours. I watched the event in awe like the rest of the world.

    Conspiracy theories are a thing these days!

  8. I remember staying up late into the night ( six hours ahead in England ), my dad and I watched in awe !
    "Bloody brilliant them Yanks", I can hear his words still...
    What a memorable achievement, I've enjoyed watching the anniversary coverage, fifty years later, and I didn't know that the flag was wired :)

  9. I never thought about how the flag would be bleached white! Interesting.

  10. I was 18 and watched the whole thing like so many of us did. Funny, that flag was stiff and unmoving so I always assumed it was immobilized somehow to show off that it was the US flag. I remember people going outside to look up at the moon--as if they might be able to see them up there--LOL!

    Was kind of disappointing that they never went beyond the moon, but we have sent stuff into space to take pictures that blow my mind. :)

  11. It was a chilling, mind blowing event and I do remember running out side and looking up. Not to see the men but to see what they were standing on and to shake my head in wonder.

  12. I feel the same way you do. On that day in 1969, I was depositing my paycheck into my account at Bank of America in Bangkok, Thailand. I watched the moon landing and the moon walk on a TV at the bank. Thrilling.

  13. If anyone is interested the recent book "Shoot for the Moon" by James Donovan is a good, retrospective account.

  14. I'm surprised only 5% don't believe we landed on the moon since an even larger percentage actually believe every lie someone else we know tweets constantly.

  15. I watched a documentary the other night, In The Shadow Of The Moon, with the Apollo astronauts talking about it all years later.

    There's a joke that goes around that since the flags have all gone white, it would appear the French were the first to step onto the moon.


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