Fifty years ago this week, Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon and uttered his now famous, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," statement. I remember the event well, sort of.
I do distinctly remember earlier on that Saturday, when the lunar module, called the "Eagle" landed on the lunar surface. My family had traveled to Lamont, Fla. to visit some friends and they had coverage of the lunar landing on their little black and white television next to the kitchen table. I remember sitting there with my dad and Mr. Peters watching this event as the astronauts declared, "The Eagle has landed."
Later that evening, my parents went to play bridge with some of their friends. That was not uncommon and, at the age of eight years old, I could look after myself during those evening hours. I actually enjoyed those Saturday evenings "on my own." Those evenings would usually consist of a solitary game of pool on the pool table, some kind of frozen TV dinner or maybe a frozen pizza and watching TV in my parents' room. I remember waiting anxiously for the astronauts to step out of their spacecraft and make those historic first steps on the moon. I remember lying in the bed and hearing Walter Cronkite telling everyone it would be at any moment that Neil Armstrong would make his way out of the Eagle and take those first steps. The next thing I remember seeing was Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin hopping around on the moon's surface. I had dozed off and missed those historic first steps. Despite my momentary snooze at a very inopportune time, I feel fortunate to have been able to see most of that event.
I later had the opportunity to meet and speak with the last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan. It was fascinating to hear him talk about what he saw and how he saw it. Speaking with Mr. Cernan, it was easy to become inspired to achieve the kinds of things you don't think you have the ability to achieve. I think that's the greatest part of the lasting legacy of the space program during the 1960s; the inspiration to do great things "not because they are easy, but because they are difficult," as President Kennedy challenged us to do. That, and Tang, the breakfast drink of the astronauts.