July 20, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission which sent the lunar module “Eagle” to the surface of the moon leading to Neil Armstrong’s momentous moonwalk. Do you remember that day? I was 15 years old when it happened, and I remember being in awe of the whole thing, imagining what the future had in store. I was also overwhelmed by the fact that the entire world seemed to have paused to focus on that one event.
A few of us from Learning Curves were reminiscing about our own personal memories of that day, and even those of us that weren’t born at that point were able to share the impact that the moon landing had on them. We reached out to some of our regular contributors and received a most interesting assortment of impressions which we are sharing with you below.
On July 16, 1969 my family was on a road trip on the Westcoast of British Columbia where I grew up. I was 13 years old and not interested in anything my parents were talking about. My older sister and brother seemed interested in this big world news, and my younger sister and brother didn’t seem to be interested in anything but playing with Gumby and Pokey.
I just knew it was something important, and my father drove to a friend’s home where everyone was crowded around a black and white television cheering and applauding as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I watched for awhile and remember hearing the famous line of “One small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind”.
However, after about 10 minutes, I returned to reading my Cherry Ames mystery novel. I found that much more interesting.
It wasn’t until 2016 when I watched the film “Hidden Figures” that I applauded the women mathematicians who worked during the Space Race. If you haven’t watched this movie, you should. It is the true story that reinforces that behind the men of Apollo 11 were many great women who made it all possible!
The Moon landing happened on July 20th, 1969. I was two months away from my 10th birthday. I have vague recollections of going to our school at night and watching it on a television in a classroom. More than the actual excitement of watching astronauts landing on the moon I may have been more impressed by the fact that I was out that late at night. I remember the room as being very dark and the images on the tv being very grainy. We did have a television at home but watching it as a group certainly added to the “gravitas” of it all. Although my memories of that moment are very cloudy, my pop culture memories are very clear! We begged our mother to buy Tang, frozen treats in the shapes of rockets and anything that had a space age theme. We were heading into the seventies and everything was in neon colours. There was a shared feeling that the world was open and it could only go up from there. Our parents had to deal with the trauma of the second world war and the fear from the Cuban missile crisis. We did not yet have to deal with the oil crisis, the threat of AIDS and recession. This period, in my memories, a hopeful time where we held our futures in our own hands. Our reality was to change during the 80s and on however I am blessed to have experienced my younger years in those times. They help anchor the idealism and hopefulness I hold deep in my soul.
At the time I was married but neither my ex husband and I can remember watching the landing. We think we were living in Australia at the time. He is now 75 and I am 72. Not sure what to attribute this lack of memory to. Age, being out of the North American news orbit, having no TV in our place in Australia. It is a bit embarrassing to owe up to not remembering.
It was the week I got the results of the national exam for grade six. And was wondering with my friends what middle school would look like. We had an American Arm force base called Kagnew Station, in Asmara. They had a radio station that plays music all day and evenings accompanied with short news of the day. They mentioned something about a rocket going to the moon on July 20, 1969. the real exciting news come to us the morning of July 21, 1969. I remember staying late outside with my friends looking out for the moon and if we can see the astronauts. It captivated my imagination and got me interested in astronomy. Ever since I read a lot about space and astronomy. I am still fascinated by it. Knowing how minuscule our planet is in the universe makes me humble. The simple fact that the earth travels at approximately 100,000 k/h to revolve around the sun, makes my movements and sense of time insignificant. I owe all this curiosity and interest to that day in history July 20, 1969, that captivated me ever since.
Late at night on July 20, 1969, my parents said, “You can’t see the astronauts that far away, but they have landed.”
For us children, somehow the moon was different from then on; something less mythical and more accessible about it became part of our science curriculum.
To me, a historical moment such as moon landing is both inconceivable and humbling. Giants leaps are also tiny steps in the scheme of time, space, and the universe. In one’s mortal lifetime, one could have the good fortune of witnessing one or two such achievements, with currently four nations as major contenders in the space race.
My children and grandchildren will witness the next space achievement, but in my extended family, there is one retired NASA scientist who has probably shared a lot of aerospace engineering with his kids and grand-kids. In 1969, he was still an undergraduate student, but went on to work on thermal dynamics for NASA.