Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dare to Dream

One of my earliest memories is of being outside our home with my parents and siblings near Detroit as a 4 or 5 year old and looking up into the night sky to see one of the Sputnik satellites pass overhead. I didn't understand what I was looking at but I could see the blue dot moving across the sky.

I was one month shy of my 12th birthday in July 1969 when Apollo 11 lifted off for the moon. Those were captivating moments for an entire nation and more. When there was a space launch or reentry during school hours we'd sometimes get to watch it on monitors in the school's auditorium. Witnessing history play out on those too small black and white television screens held my attention like no teacher could. The crackling of the booster rockets as they propelled the tiny capsule into space was awe inspiring. I sat riveted to the screen as earth based cameras transitioned to video from aircraft and continued to monitor the rocket until the boosters fell away. Had anybody been talking to me during any of it I don't think I'd have heard a word.

We were vacationing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and at my aunt and uncle's home in Winona the night Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the lunar surface and made history. I remember looking up at the moon that night through the window in their family room and trying to get my head around the fact that men were actually up there.

We were a divided nation back then as the Vietnam war dragged on, much the same as we are today but the space program gave us something that we could all rally around and feel good about. I don't sense that we have any sort of common bond in today's world; possibly getting the economy moving again, maybe. The space program caused you to pause and realize what man is capable of. I miss that spirit.

The Space Shuttle is currently circling the globe but it's pretty much become 'ho-hum' anymore and it shouldn't be.

I don't suppose a rekindling of space exploration is on our nation's short list of pressing matters but maybe it should be. Rather than having our youngest generation imprint on some overpaid, self absorbed athlete or entertainer they could actually have real life heroes to emulate. Imagine that.


Lisa said...

Nice memories, Kevin, and I totally agree with your points on the subject. I was only 2 years old that summer, but my family has memories of what it was like.

Kevin said...

I can't believe that half a lifetime has gone by since those days. I wonder where we'd be had we continued with missions like that rather than only circling our globe in the Shuttle?

Here's an interesting interview of somebody who was quite young back then but very involved in the Apollo missions. It's interesting to note that the computer aboard the Apollo spacecraft had only 76kb of memory. Compare that to your average cellphone.