50 years ago this month, for the first time in history, man walked on the moon. To my kids, this is ancient history and not a big deal.
For me, it was a defining moment of my childhood. 50 summers ago I had just finished the first grade. I loved all things space. I knew the names of all the astronauts. I built models of the rockets, of the lunar module, and at one time, I even had a recording of the first Space Walk.
Yes, even 50 years ago I was a geek. So please pardon me today as I geek out a little bit remembering that I was witness to one of modern history’s great events.
Whenever I could talk my dad into it, I stayed up late or got up early to watch launches and landings, and Apollo 11 was no exception. I remember well being up early on the morning of July 16, 1969 (we lived on the west coast so launch time was about 6:30). I was so excited to see the giant Saturn V rocket take off and watched through its dropping the first stages of the rocket.
And then four days later, I was glued to our little 9” black-and-white television again as the lunar module reached the moon’s surface, and then later that evening I watched, transfixed as Neil Armstrong made “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
It cemented my love of space (and of adventure) and I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, even when one of my fifth-grade teachers (my first conscious introduction to male chauvinism) told me that girls would never be smart enough to be astronauts. I was always a little envious of Sally Ride.
You might imagine then, how excited I was as a college journalism student, when NASA announced the “Journalist in Space” program. Though I knew I didn’t have a snowball’s chance, I applied anyway. And you can imagine my heartbreak when the space shuttle Challenger crashed, and the program was abruptly ended.
I still geek out over all things space. I’ve gone outside at night to watch the space shuttle pass over, and to look for the International Space Station. My son and I once made a six-hour roundtrip to see a traveling NASA exhibit because that’s as close as it got to our home.
How about you? Were you around for that “giant leap for mankind?” What do you remember about the space race? Please share your thoughts and reminiscences in the comment section below.
For more on the history and mission of Apollo 11, visit the NASA website here.
All photographs on this website are courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, specifically the NASA History Office and the NASA JSC Media Services Center. You may find more photographs at these links: