Houston, Tranquility base. The Eagle has landed.
There are no pictures I want to show you, no clever quips nor lists. I just want for a moment today, each and every person who reads this, every person who thinks they don’t care and that it doesn’t matter, to reflect on the fact that we landed on the moon. 40 years ago today, we ushered in an era of prosperity and achievement over the fear and hate raging through the veins of a world wracked by wars, both cold and hot. We, America, put a man on a rocket 300 feet long, pushing with the force of 250,000 car engines, all the way to the moon. We put him there and returned him safely. A feat no equaled since 1972, when Apollo 17 left the moon for the last time.
The three men chosen for this accomplishment were Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins. These three men are heroes, not for any of the very heroic flights they endured in war, not for their philanthropy since. These men are heroes because they helped the realm of science merge with the realm of imagination. I can’t imagine what focus and dedication these men would need to prove once and for all that mans dominion, his ability to explore was not tethered by the iron shackles of earth, but by the ethereal and unending bounds of imagination. Man could break free and explore a “new frontier” and he can do so still.
The moral of the story is that there is a plaque on the moon, and it does not make me proud to be an American. It makes me proud to be a man, a human, a citizen of Earth. It reads “We came in peace for all mankind” and as sure as I sit here and type this diatribe, this needlessly dramatic, and utterly rambling hero worship… it was true. It was an effort to exact a scientific community that shed the lines of country and race, and strove to find peace for all mankind. I hope one day more people read it.
12 people have set foot on the moon, 24 have orbited. The last in December 1972. Those men, those brave men are of course heroes for their own reasons. Personal and otherwise. Bravery engages them, curiosity in the leagues of great scientists and great pilots. They seek to go the distance. If not them, then who? It’s about leaving the cave and looking to the stars. It’s about making fire, the wheel, sailing across that great ocean and marking it as found. Heroes in war, heroes in peace, heroes for all of mankind. If ever another country puts another man on another celestial body, if ever the world moves beyond political distinctions, and Earth puts man on Mars. This will be why: 40 years ago today, Neil Armstrong set his foot on the moon, and proved it could be done, and in doing so he ushered in an era that could not and has not been equaled by any feat of engineering or daring since.
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”
P.S. Many of these men were Eagle scouts, war heroes, test pilots of the highest caliber, and men of heroism and mettle before ever seeing the lunar surface, but make no mistake about the severity I place toward an achievement that may help man outlast his planet, and move beyond his solar system.
P.P.S. Also, the man to really thank for sparking this imagination? J.F.K. When he wasn’t chasing women around the White Horse (that is a movie reference) he was telling us that we would put a man on a giant rocket, made out of metal that hadn’t been invented, doing something we’ve never come close to doing, and we were going to do it in 8 years. He wasn’t alive to see it, but if ever a president whipped some asses into shape, it’d be J.F.K.
Rice University and The Apollo 11 moon landing. 7 years apart.