“Our Spacemen Walk on the Moon!”

The Boston Herald Traveler proudly announced July 21, 1969. The issue greeted me last week from the Apollo 11 50th anniversary display at the Arizona Science Center. We were there for the Mummies of the World exhibit, but when I saw the anniversary commemoration, I thought that was way better than the mummies!  I must say, however, there is nothing in the world that can make you feel older than celebrating a 50th anniversary of something that you remember so well and was such a monumental part of your history.  Gees!

I don’t have a huge nostalgia bone in my body, but, certainly, man-going-to -the-moon, is among the fondest of my childhood memories.  Not just going to the moon, but all the hoopla around it.  (BTW, I know I don’t always write in complete sentences, but I’m trying to write the way I talk – “conversational” – I believe they call it.)  Anywhoo, I got to thinking about the lunar trip and I thought I would share some of the fun and memorable details about the period, and specifically, what I loved about it.

#1.  Summer.  Growing up in Colorado means there is never enough summer.  I am sure even ardent skiers would agree with me.  Any event that took place in summer lives in a pleasant spot in my brain.  Any event that happened the other nine months of the year could have been, and probably was, tainted with unexpected storms, inappropriate outfits and ruined dress shoes.  The moon landing took place in the Colorado summer which was already a magical time for us. Imagine adding this excitement to our summer. I remember watching the landing on black and white TV and then running outside with my brother in the mild night looking up at the moon and asking my mom if we could possibly see the astronauts with our binoculars.  My poor mother.  Not seeing the spacemen didn’t stop us from going outside every chance we got to look at the moon.  We were just captivated.

#2.  The Astronauts’  Names.  Neil and Buzz?  C’mon.  If those aren’t heroic, cool, maverick names, what are?

#3.  Ground Control.  All those white-man, nerdy engineers with white shirts and skinny black ties were totally foreign to me.  Many had horned rimmed glasses and cigs hanging out of their mouths.  My Uncle Bob had those glasses, and he was the smartest in the family, so the obvious connection in my ten-year-old brain was that those people were brilliant. I don’t know how those IBM computers dealt with all the smoke in the room, and it must have been very difficult to breath, but that was how those times were.  In my short experience on Earth at that time, men only wore ties on Sunday to church.  What must it have been like to have a job where a tie was needed? It was so fun watching this group during the stressful reentry and ocean landing. That seems a little callous, but the drama was good.

#4.  Product Marketing.  Companies were advertising disgusting and expensive items as being used (and presumably enjoyed) by the astronauts.  We BEGGED our mom (again, my poor mom) to buy us Tang and Space Food Sticks based on the ads that were targeted right at our age group.  Tang is still around!  And it’s probably still disgusting!  Space Food Sticks were sort of like Tootsie Rolls with no flavor, packaged in individual foil wrapping.  We didn’t like these delicacies when we finally got them, but we didn’t want to complain because we had begged so hard to get them.  Now, remember, this was back in the day when groceries were not purchased with a credit card and needed to be paid for with cash.  Treats were treats back then and were not consumed daily and not purchased automatically like most households do today.  To this day, NASA has a page on their site disclaiming Tang as a NASA spinoff. For giggles, here is one of the more compelling commercials we were subjected to.

#5.  Television Coverage.  We LOVED watching TV.  Believe me, we were not reading newspapers and didn’t want to hear anything else on the news, but we were glued to NASA coverage.  Along those lines, we loved watching I Dream of Jeannie and all the antics those silly astronauts were getting up to.  Of course, they deserved the coolest houses and most beautiful girls.  When I eventually visited Cocoa Beach as an adult, imagine my disappointment that it wasn’t Hollywood slick and had no mountains in the background.  I’m sure poor Dr. Bellows would have understood my frustration.

Fast Company did a series, “50 Days to the Moon.”  It consists of 50 stories that are well written and interesting.  Going through those articles refreshed my memories, taught me new stuff and reinforced why it was such a great time in history.

I was just a kid, but it still felt like such a patriotic and a wonderful American achievement to reach the moon. But really, it took almost half a million people and 20,000 companies, in conjunction with the American government, to get to the moon and back. So it’s a human experience, not just American.  It seems like the times we live in could use a little humanity right now and something we can be proud of. Please enjoy the rest of the summer and love each other.