Tag Archives: Neil Armstrong

This flag-waver will watch ‘First Man’

Critics of this blog likely won’t believe this, but I am a serious flag-waver. I love Old Glory. Don’t burn it in my presence if you intend to persuade me to sign on to whatever political point you are making.

My love of the flag also has given me some pause about whether I want to see a film. I refer to “First Man,” the story of one of this country’s most magnificent technological achievements.

“First Man” tells the tale of Neil Armstrong’s role as the “first man” to walk on the moon. Armstrong was joined by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on that historic – and heroic – Apollo 11 mission that achieved President Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” before the end of the 1960s. The landing occurred on July 20, 1969. JFK didn’t leave to see the mission accomplished.

Why the trepidation about seeing “First Man”? It doesn’t show one of the mission’s most iconic moments: the unfurling of Old Glory on the surface of the moon.

I keep hearing theories as to why the film doesn’t show that moment. One of them has to do with Ryan Gosling, who portrays Armstrong. Gosling is a Canadian and I’ve heard some chatter about Gosling not wanting to unfurl the Stars and Stripes because he ain’t an American.

I believe that’s crap.

I wish the film would depict that moment. Having said all that, I’ll likely see the movie when I return home from an RV trip my wife and are taking at this moment.

There’s a lot more to this story than a simple flag ceremony. As a proud flag-waving, patriotic American I wish they had depicted that moment. President Kennedy likely would have insisted on it. For all I know he might even have boycotted the film because of that moment’s absence.

That’s not me. I’ll see the film and enjoy all the drama that led up to Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind.”

How about returning to the moon? How about going farther?

President Kennedy already had initiated the race to the moon. The United States was a distant second to the Soviet Union when he declared his intention to ensure that we “send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s.

Then the president implored us on. “We don’t do these things because they are easy,” he said. “We do them because they are hard.”

Well, Americans got to the moon first. It was 49 years ago today that the late Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the moon’s dusty surface and pronounced, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He thrilled the folks back home. Not just in our country, but everywhere. Perhaps even in the Soviet Union.

Mission accomplished.

We sent several more missions to the moon. Astronauts planted flags, dug up lunar dirt and brought it back, they drove around on “lunar dune buggies,” and one of them — the first American in space, the late Alan Shepard — even hit a chip shot that went for “miles and miles.”

Then we stopped going to the moon. It became too expensive. The public lost interest. We won the race. The act of launching three people into space aboard a flaming rocket carrying many thousands of pounds of flammable fuel no longer fascinated the American public.

I am one American who lived through that exciting time. I want them to return.

Subsequent presidents have given somewhat tepid support for the initiative of returning to deep space. The end of the Cold War in 1991 removed the Soviet Union from the world landscape. The Soviet descendants, though, have continued to send explorers into space. They now carry passengers with them. Some of them are Americans.

I am acutely aware of the expense of such exploration. However, it was what we were put on this Earth to do, to reach beyond our planetary comfort and to learn more about the world beyond.

Donald J. Trump has continued the presidential push — such as it’s been — to return one day to space. I want NASA to redevelop its own manned program. It’s what we do — and we do it well.

My sense is that enough time has passed since the last moon mission that we’ll get quite excited when the next rocket blasts off into the heavens with crews that will take the next “giant leap for mankind.”

Another NASA celebrity astronaut leaves us

There once was a time when astronauts were celebrities. We knew their names. We followed their careers. We got up early to watch them blast off from the Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad.

Another such astronaut — and please pardon this intended pun — has left this Earth for keeps. Alan Bean died today at age 86.

He was the fourth man to walk on the moon, aboard Apollo 12 in November 1969. He made the flight to the lunar surface with the late Charles “Pete” Conrad.

Alan Bean didn’t achieve the kind of celebrity status of, say, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, the seven men selected to fly in the initial Mercury missions, or most of the Gemini astronauts who came along later.

Bean was among those picked for the third group of space pioneers, the Apollo program. He joined NASA in 1963 after serving as a Navy test pilot.

My years in the Texas Panhandle makes me remind you that Bean hailed from that part of the world. He was a native of Wheeler, a tiny town east of Amarillo.

My most glaring memory of Bean’s time on the moon stems from some innovative measures he took to deploy a camera on the lunar surface. The camera wouldn’t start taking images. What did Bean do? He grabbed a hammer and beat on the device! Then it worked.

NASA doesn’t have a manned space program of its own these days. We’re sending our astronauts into space aboard Russian rockets. I’m trying to imagine how Presidents Kennedy and Johnson would react to that bit of aerospace irony.

Back in the day, though, Alan Bean was among those individuals we prayed for when they rocketed into space. As President Kennedy said about the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and returning them safely, “We don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

Alan Bean and his colleagues just made it look easy. It wasn’t. He needed to beat on a state-of-the-art camera with a hammer to enable the device to record his history-making adventure for the rest of time.

May he now rest eternally.

Trump declares ‘war’ on California? Hmmm …

California Democrats believe Donald John Trump has declared war on the nation’s most populous state.

They cite the president’s recent actions regarding (a) recreational marijuana use, (b) offshore oil drilling and (c) increased enforcement of immigration laws.

Let’s ponder that for a moment.

I cannot define any president’s motives. People who are  “done wrong” by presidents often accuse them of political retribution.

It was said during the late 1960s that Democratic President Lyndon Johnson hated the Texas Panhandle so much because several counties voted for Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election that he took it out on the region by closing the Amarillo Air Force Base. Many longtime Panhandle residents still hold a grudge against LBJ for that decision.

Now we have the current president — a Republican — imposing policies deemed detrimental to the nation’s most staunchly Democratic state. Democrats say they are certain that Trump is angry enough to punish the state for purely partisan reasons.

I, um, don’t know about that.

Trump vs. California?

The president’s offshore drilling proposals also involve the Gulf Coast, which comprises states that all voted for Trump in 2016. Immigration enforcement? Texas, too, is affected by whatever stricter policies come from the Trump administration.

I suppose one might make a case that California’s recent legalizing of recreational pot use might be construed as some sort of payback. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the federal government is rescinding Obama administration rules softening punishment for those caught using marijuana, which the feds still consider a “controlled substance.”

And while we are talking about President Obama, I will mention that Barack Obama could have ordered one of the decommissioned space shuttles to be displayed in a museum in Texas. Hey, the state is home to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Neil Armstrong’s first words in July 1969 from the moon’s surface were, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Texas was shunned. Why? Well, some have said President Obama had no love for Texas, given that the state voted twice for his Republican opponents.

I am not a big fan of this kind of political conspiracy theory.

Still, California Democrats do make a fascinating point. They say Donald Trump is the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to fail to visit California during the first year of his presidency.

Hey, the state qualifies as the world’s fifth-largest economy.

What gives, Mr. President?

Wishing for a return to full-fledged space travel

It was 48 years ago. A giant rocket sat on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.. Perched atop that beastly Saturn rocket was a space ship carrying three men.

They would make history a few days later on that Apollo 11 mission. But on July 16, 1969, they launched into the sky, took off into orbit, then fired those on-board rockets to propel them to the moon.

The late Neil Armstrong set foot first on the moon. A little while later, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin hopped off the ladder onto the sandy lunar soil. Meanwhile, their crewmate Michael Collins circled above, orbiting moon.

The world — the entire planet — held its breath as Armstrong proclaimed he was taking “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” We cheered, cried and prayed for their safe return.

Space travel hadn’t yet become “routine,” as if it ever should have been thought of in that light. The Apollo missions would put several more men on the moon. Then we would have Skylab and then the shuttle program.

They’re all gone now. All those missions are history. Yes, Americans are still flying into space, but they’re doing so aboard Russian rockets. Try to imagine how President Kennedy would feel about that!

I am old enough to remember the old days. I also am young enough at heart to wish for the day we can return yet again to full-fledged space travel — even though it’s never routine.

‘The Eagle has landed’

I might be the only person in America who did not watch Apollo 11 land on the moon via CBS News’s legendary coverage of the event.

I was tuned in that day to NBC News. I heard the late Frank McGee intone, simply: “Man … is on the moon.”

But the link here is of the CBS coverage of the event, which occurred 46 years ago today.

It brings to mind this simple truth: We grew complacent about space travel over the years.

We launched a space race to the moon with the then-Soviet Union. President Kennedy had declared in 1961 that the goal would to be to “put a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. We got there in the seventh month of the final year of that decade.

It was an exciting time. It was fraught with peril. But we knew that and at some level accepted the risk as part of the grand strategy, the goal. We had to beat those dreaded Soviets and by golly, we did!

The lunar program would end in 1972. NASA couldn’t justify spending so much money on missions that had grown — this is he word they used — “routine.”

There could be nothing routine about putting human beings atop a flaming rocket carrying thousands of pounds of fuel and sending them into outer space.

Tragedy would strike later. We’d go through the Skylab program. Then came the shuttle missions. Challenger blew apart on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. On Feb. 1, 2003, Columbia disintegrated on its return from space, killing seven more crew members.

Routine? Hardly.

But on that glorious summer day in 1969, two men — the late Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin — had us holding our breath as they walked into history.

Look what they found in moon walker's closet!

Neil Armstrong: smuggler.

It has a fascinating ring to it. Who would have thought the nation’s premier space hero, daredevil test pilot, the first man to ever walk on the moon would have squirreled away some artifacts from humankind’s most daring adventure?

The First Man on the Moon died in 2012, and his widow, Carol, has uncovered a trove of goodies she discovered in his closet.

http://www.cnet.com/news/forgotten-apollo-moon-artifacts-found-in-neil-armstrongs-closet/

I think it’s quite cool that he managed to sneak this stuff past his NASA bosses.

The artifacts were supposed to have crashed into the moon, along with the Apollo 11 lunar lander, which Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind in lunar orbit in July 1969 when they hooked up with Michael Collins in the command module. Armstrong, though, brought the items home with him.

They include a camera used to take pictures on the moon as well as some gizmos and gadgets that had been stuffed into a bag and placed in Armstrong’s closet.

Hey, these items aren’t secret weapons, nor do they require some kind of top-secret clearance to handle.

I can recall coming home from the Army in 1970 with some items I was supposed to turn into the quartermaster’s office as I was transitioning back to civilian life. I still have my trusty entrenching tool, issued to me in 1968 and, by golly, I still use it around the yard. I can’t recall how I got it past the supply sergeant back then.

Whatever.

Mrs. Armstrong’s discovery has been turned over to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, where I’m sure it’ll be put on proper display.

It’s a pretty cool discovery.

Good job, Philae lander

As an American baby boomer who came of age during the Space Race, I am in absolute awe of the picture I saw this morning.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/photo/philae-probe-sends-back-first-photo-surface-comet-n247586

The European Space Agency’s comet lander, Philae, has sent back the first image from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Holy cow!

That a mechanical device could be launched from Earth, travel 10 years through deep space and then land on a comet, for crying out loud, is enough of a scientific marvel all by itself.

Now we’re getting pictures that are being sent more than 300 million miles from Earth. What’s more, the clarity is astounding beyond measure.

I saw the news report earlier this week when Philae landed on the comet and watched space agency engineers cheering, back-slapping and hugging each other. It reminded me of the reaction at NASA when, for instance, the late Neil Armstrong told the world: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Oh, those were the days.

I’m glad the ESA has accomplished this monumental feat. I’m delighted to see the pictures. A part of me, though, is a bit envious of the spectacular success that someone else has just achieved.

 

 

It's been 45 years since that 'giant leap'

Allow me this admission: I didn’t do much thinking Sunday about the 45th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon.

I was too busy traveling home from a glorious weekend with my family.

And to be frank, thinking of that day saddens me a little. It’s not because of the event itself. The late Neil Armstrong’s first step off the Apollo 11 lunar lander was captivating at a level I’d never experienced. “One giant step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” became a mantra to be repeated by proud Americans everywhere.

No, the sadness comes in realizing where we’ve gone — or not gone — in the decades since then.

We landed a few more times on the moon, had a near-tragedy when Apollo 13 exploded en route — only to be brought home in a miraculous seat-of-the-pants rescue effort. Alan Shepard, America’s first man in space, got to land on the moon and hit that golf shot that went miles.

Those were heady times.

Then the missions became “routine.” How sad. NASA pulled the plug after Apollo 17. It embarked on the Skylab mission to test humans’ long-term endurance in space. Then came the space shuttle experiment, with its huge highs and devastating tragedy.

Then it ended. The shuttle fleet is retired. We’re piggybacking into space aboard Russian rockets.

I admit to longing for the days when we could get re-inspired the way we were when President Kennedy made it the national goal to “put a man on the moon before the decade (of the 1960s) is out and return him safely to the Earth.” We had that big, bad Soviet Union to race to the moon. We won that contest.

Now there’s some vague talk about going to Mars — eventually. Why “vague” talk? Because one hardly ever hears anything publicly about what’s going on. NASA engineers are toiling in obscurity — apparently — designing a vehicle to take humans to the next planet out there in our solar system.

My late mother and I spent many mornings awaiting the launches of the early space missions. Mercury and Gemini preceded the Apollo program. We agonized over the delays. Cheered at the launch. Wept with joy when the men landed safely in the ocean.

I’ve never grown tired of watching these vehicles lift off from the pad and roar into space. It pains me that the nation became bored with it.

I am grateful to have watched humanity’s first steps on the moon. I surely now want to live long enough to hear someone say, “Houston, we have landed on Mars.”