Tag Archives: Apollo 11

Hoping for a return of a can-do spirit and drive

Americans are looking back with some sort of fondness at an event that occurred 50 years ago.

Yes, we won that race to the moon. Two American astronauts landed on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong stepped off the lander’s ladder and declared that he was taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

For years I had thought that Armstrong’s transmission got garbled somehow, that he really did say it was one “small step for a man.” Alas, that was mistaken … apparently. Armstrong flubbed the line, or so I learned.

President Kennedy had laid down the marker in 1961. He declared that we should get to the moon by the end of the 1960s. The president rallied the nation to his dream. He ventured to Houston and said that “we don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

And so the race was on.

Hey, we had a geopolitical adversary that had rubbed our noses in it. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite. The USSR put the first man into space.

Meanwhile, as the nation’s prepared to launch humans into space, we couldn’t get a rocket off the pad. They were exploding. Our national psyche suffered.

But we got into space. We put two men into sub-orbital flight. We finally put a man into orbit with John Glenn’s historic three-orbit flight in February 1962.

President Kennedy, of course, didn’t live to see his dream come true. Still, the mission proceeded at full throttle.

The Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of a national task. The world held its breath. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left indelible prints on the dusty lunar surface. Those boot prints remain there to this day. There would be others, too.

Over the span of time our manned missions dissipated and all but disappeared. The Soviet Union vanished from Earth in 1991. Russian rockets are taking Americans into space these days. I wonder what President Kennedy would think of that development.

I suppose you could say that the Apollo 11 mission was the beginning of our exploration of another celestial body. It actually was the beginning of the end of our grand adventure.

However, I do hope we get back into space. Human beings need to explore. We are built and wired to do great things.

A half-century ago we cheered the heroism of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the third astronaut who orbited the moon while waiting for his shipmates to return. These men exemplified a can-do spirit that I am missing today.

I hope we can find it … and soon.

Remembering a thrilling era of adventure

My sappiness came through once again this evening.

I just watched a PBS broadcast, the third part of a series called “Chasing the Moon.” It told the story of the Apollo 11 mission to land on the lunar surface, an event that occurred 50 years ago this month.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stepped off a space ship onto the moon’s surface and took what Armstrong called “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

My eyes got wet. I swallowed hard. I found myself smiling at the TV as I relived the images we had seen a half-century ago.

I remembered how I felt at the time in the summer of 1969. I felt proud. I was thrilled that we had kept President Kennedy’s pledge to “land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. The president didn’t live to see it happen, but the program proceeded even after the young president’s shocking death.

I do wish we could regain that spirit of adventure. I fear we have lost it forever. Indeed, as the PBS program noted, interest in the moon missions began to dissipate almost immediately after Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins finished their final parade in the final foreign capital. They were treated as the heroes they were.

Then the money dried up. Sure, we conducted a few more missions, including that harrowing Apollo 13 mission that came too close to tragedy.

Maybe that thrill will come back to us if and when we prepare to launch humans to Mars.

Watching the PBS broadcast tonight, though, reminded me of how I used to swell with pride at our technological know-how and the courage of the individuals we would hurtle into outer space.

I am hoping to feel it again.

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.”

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.

If only Buzz Aldrin would tell us

Oh, how I wish I could read minds.

This video is making the Internet rounds. Donald Trump is talking about space travel. The fellow on the right is none other than Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, one of two men who walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

A lot of would-be mind readers are conjecturing about what Aldrin might be thinking. He looks alternately bemused, confused, aghast and flabbergasted at what he’s hearing from the president of the United States.

Oh well. I just wanted to share it here. You be the judge on what is going through Buzz Aldrin’s mind.

Might there be someone who can ask the space hero what he was thinking? Would he tell us the truth? Hey, it’s worth asking.

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.


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.


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.

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.”