What were you doing 40 years ago today when Apollo 11 made its historic landing on the moon?
My unscientific statistics-ometer assumes about half of you weren’t doing anything because you were still twinkling away in your mom and dad’s eyes. For many of us, at the time much younger, ‘boomers’ however it was one of our first opportunities to actually watch history in the making.
On July 12, 1969 a Lunar Module camera provided live television coverage of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon’s surface at 8:56 pm MDT.
We were living on a wide shelf outcropping in a quonset hut at New Mexico’s Bandelier National Park along with several other employees who occupied similar shelf-plunked huts. The spacing was generous and the beauty was breathtaking It was primitive, isolated and as a result the small community of Bandelier workers was tight.
My sister and I were among a pinch of young Bandelierites. Other co-inhabitants included the park supervisor, various park rangers, grounds workers and Bob Butcher. I have no idea what Bob’s position at the park was but he was important and he liked us.
So when the day of the first lunar landing came, Bob sent out a neighborhood call. We could watch the showing at his house on his front lawn. Bob was the only one in the neighborhood with a television, or a lawn.
So our little group gathered on Bob Butcher’s front yard, on an almost secret natural shelf nestled under the canon of Los Alamos (another story), birthplace of the atomic bomb.
Bob brought his huge console television outside, hooked it to an extension cord and we watched the first man walk on the moon. THE MOON! WOW!
It was a huge moment in America’s history. At that time there were only three network channels, no cable, no world wide highway, in fact, there were no home computers at all. The television networks took painstaking, expensive efforts to cover this landmark happening and they did a splendid job.
After the brief footage aired there was one ‘instant replay’, the original footage. They played it over and over. The commentary was that of the news anchors and their esteemed guests. It happened, and it was done…SPECTACUARLY. We were proud Americans.
Flash forward 40 years. Imagine such an event now – the main stream media and social networks would buzz it up and vote it down, a million Tweets here, four million Facebook comments there. Videos would appear by the thousands on Youtube, Vimeo etc, etc, etc. Flickr and Picasa would overflow their Photobuckets. It wouldn’t take months for the conspiracy theories to be exposed. They might be hatched and already matured to the status of full blown cults before Armstrong’s big lunar boot hit the dust.
Remarkable as our exposure to ‘real time news’ is I wouldn’t trade that evening in New Mexico for all the tweets in the Twitterverse. Our little gathering was in awe at what we witnessed. And we had a darn good time doing it.
The world has moved on. It’s buzzing and humming and for a researchoholic the current state of the net makes every day a trip to Candy Mountain. Still, it seems a privilege to have the memory of a more innocent time, a ‘giant leap for mankind’ complete with moon dust, burned into my memory forever.
Cheers to the past, the present and the future.