Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Original Whew Tang Clan

Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon - July 20, 1969

It was forty-five years ago on this very day that two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first and second human beings to set foot on the Moon.  There is no truth to the rumor that as Armstrong and Aldrin strolled around on the Moon the third member of the Apollo 11 team, Michael Collins circled the Moon in search of a place to park.  

Collins was the Command Module Pilot and in doing so, while his two teammates were on the Moon stepping and leaping, he orbited the Moon more than once while he was entirely by himself - including forty-eight minutes during each orbit when he was completely out of communication range with NASA or anyone else on Earth for that matter.  In his 2001 autobiography, Collins described how he felt as a feeling of  "awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation".   

Collins also disclosed - in a 2009 interview with The Guardian - that he was very concerned for Armstrong and Aldrin's safety when they were on the Moon.  He was also concerned that, in the event of their deaths on the Moon, he would be forced to return to Earth alone and, as the mission's sole survivor, be regarded as "a marked man for life".

Armstrong was apparently as much of a pie-eyed optimist as his crewmate Collins.  In a 1983 Esquire Magazine interview with George Plimpton, Armstrong disclosed that his famous "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" line was something he thought up ONLY after "the Eagle" (the LEM) touched down on the surface of the Moon.  He explained to Plimpton that "I always knew there was a good chance of being able to return to Earth, but I thought the chances of a successful touchdown on the moon surface were about even money—fifty-fifty ... Most people don't realize how difficult the mission was. So it didn't seem to me there was much point in thinking of something to say if we'd have to abort landing."  

Aldrin, New Jersey's contribution to the Apollo 11 mission, followed Armstrong down the ladder and onto the Moon's surface.  He may have been the second human to walk on the Moon but he was the first to eat there.  Surprisingly, the first Moon meal was not pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll.  It was a Communion host.   Hell of a long way to go for a dry piece of wafer but to each his own I suppose.  

Forty-five years ago today, we the people of Earth placed two of our own on the Moon.  Now, it appears as if far too often we cannot get the hell out of one another's way (Hello - we shoot down passenger airliners now for F*ck's sake).  It makes their accomplishment seem perhaps all the more remarkable when one compares how far they went with how far we have failed to go in the four and one half decades since.  

Rather than one small step followed by one giant leap, it is one step up...

...and two steps back.  Get Houston on the line.  We most assuredly have a problem. 


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