(photo by Leon Hammack)
Where were you on the evening of July 20, 1969?
I still remember very well where I was and what I was doing on that evening. I had just graduated from high school just one month earlier, and had the world by the proverbial, ah um, the lower hanging spheres!! Just a few days earlier I had witnessed a picture perfect launch of the Apollo/Saturn rocket that would lift three astronauts, Neil Alden Armstrong, Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins to the Moon. The flight would eventually allow two of those astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to be the first human beings to walk on the surface of the Moon!
This mission was the culmination of a speech that the late President John F. Kennedy gave on May 25, 1961 to the U. S. Congress that challenged this country to put a man on the Moon by the end of that decade, the 60’s. It was a time of the “Cold War”, of Sputnik, of the “race for space”, and the race for nuclear arms with the Soviet Union. It was a time of nuclear fear and national pride! There was was a feeling in this country that there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished with”good old American ingenuity!
The images that were relayed back to Earth were black and white, not in color. Not only were the images in black and white, but the quality was very poor and grainy! What did we expect, after all the images originated 240,000 miles away on a foreign site…..The Moon! Apollo 11 was the first mission to land on the Moon, but it was the third manned mission to orbit the Moon. The first mission to orbit the Moon was Apollo 8 with Frank Borman as the commander of that mission.
We are rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of that those daunting odds,nevertheless the U. S. Space Program succeeded! In one way that lunar mission seems like just yesterday, and on the other hand I was a mere lad of 18 and now I am 58 years old and a grandfather, to boot!
On July 20th, take some time to think about what happened on that historic day! Just fathom what was accomplished in just 8 short years after President John F. Kennedy challenged us all to pull on the same end of the rope and put a man on the Moon!! What we did as Americans in that short period of time may NEVER be replicated again in the history of MANKIND!
I will paraphrase Bob Seger’s song ,”Like A Rock”. Forty years, where’d they go? Forty years,I don’t know! But sometimes late at night, when I’m bathed in the firelight, I recall, I recall!!
Again I ask what were you doing on that evening of July 20, 1969? I would like to know?
I know that you are wondering who, what, when, where, and why, regarding the picture that I chose to incorporate into this article. Are your ready? Well that is not Neil Armstrong looking up waiting for Buzz Aldrin to come down the stairs of the Lunar Module! It is my brother Jim at Daytona looking up at me at the top of the tri oval at the start/finish line !!! For Jim to walk up to me, it truly was not one small step for man, nor one giant leap for mankind!!! It was just plain breath-taking!!