Monday, July 20, 2009

Mankind's Giant Leap of Promise

Occurred today in 1969.

I was 6 years old when it happened. Clan Cunningham was vacationing at some local cabin by the lake in the Midwest. My parents woke us kids up to watch the landing on the moon. I remember watching the flickering of the B&W TV set and then looking out to see the moon up in the sky.

"They're all the way up there?"

We had dreamed of rocket travel back in the 20's and 30's (yes, even before then). We gave that dream form and constructed possibilities - atomic rocket motors, space helmets, aerodynamic foils, maneuvering rockets - all flights of fancy that sparked real world initiatives. The call to adventure.

In the 1940's - 50's we began to understand the forces we were dealing with. The dangerous possibilities of going out into interplanetary space...

But still we forged ahead in the real world and our fiction. Excited. Terrified and yet understanding this was our destiny if we wished to pursue it.

And then finally the Sixties. Colorful yet oh so dangerous. We had reached a point where we could destroy ourselves. We needed to be better. We needed the challenge of the unknown.

President Kennedy set us on a path of looking to the future and reaching out and grabbing it. Then, 9 short years after the launch of the New Frontier, we were there. Like the baby who learns that he can climb the stairs. The first step is the hardest, but once done it gets easier as you go along.

The era had an infectious optimism, and signposts up ahead that said we could be better. That we would use the exploration of space to better ourselves.

Then came the reality. July 20th, 1969.

And even though it was in shaky black & white with scratchy sound, the future - the promise we all held onto for decades - was being fulfilled. I think that perhaps to my young eyes it was all the more real precisely because it was scratchy and monotone. "Real" outerspace was dirty and scratchy...

but just as glorious as the promise we'd made to ourselves.

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