Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vale: Neil Armstrong.

One day, when I was six years old, the entire school was herded into a large room where we sat and watched grainy images on a regular sized TV as Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface for the very first time. It's still one of the few memories I have from that particular school. It was cool and exciting to think that man had walked on the moon.

From all accounts, Neil was a nerdy engineer who was calm and logical. A quiet, private gentleman who wanted none of the hoopla that surrounded the event. (Apparently that was the main reason he was selected over Buzz Aldrin to be first.)

A couple of years ago I read a wonderful book about the twelve astronauts who'd been on the moon. Moondust, by Andrew Smith, looks at the men, and how their lives were affected by having walked on the moon. Lyrical and poetic and engaging, I still highly recommend the book.

Armstrong, reclusive and private, rarely gave interviews or spoke to the media. For this book, however, he consented and spoke with the author.

In a moment of unusual frankness, Neil Armstrong once recalled standing on the Moon and noticing he could blot out the Earth with his thumb. Did that make him feel really big, he was asked? 'No,' the great astronaut replied. 'It made me feel really, really small.'

We haven't been back to the moon since 1972. As Smith says:

'Of over 400 people who have now into space, only 27 have ever left Earth orbit and seen her from the perspective of Deep Space - all American and all between the Christmases of 1968 and 1972.'

And only twelve have walked on it. Perhaps it's time we went back. With current technology, and people on the surface, one can only imagine the possibilities.

As for Neil, he's now taken a bigger step into the unknown. Have a safe journey. Thank you for the inspiration and dreams.


Gitte Christensen said...

It was the first thing I heard on the news this morning - so sad. But what an inspiration he was.

Steve Cameron said...

True words indeed.