I remember that day in July 1969 when I sat in front of the television, practically holding my breath as Eagle, the spider-like lunar module, touched down on the moon. Ah, man, I was such a fan of the space program back then and, at some point, I had models of the Mercury capsules, the really cool looking Gemini capsules and, the crowning achievement in my model collection, a model of the entire Saturn V launch vehicle that was almost as tall as I was. I had memorized every detail of the spacecraft I could get my hands on, like how each of the five first-stage engines produced 2.2 million pounds of thrust each and even the odd bit of trivia that even though the countdown reached zero and the engines fired, special bolts held the powerful rocket in place for a whole eight seconds to build maximum thrust.
God, I had put so much work into that model, complete with all the decals and painted in the proper colors… and my sister trashed it.
And, yes, I did cry… because my mother wouldn’t let me kick her ass. Anyway…
When Neal put that first human boot print on the lunar surface, I was so envious of him! I remember the words he spoke and the historical importance of them chilled me to the bone. In my mind – and despite that other Apollo missions did go to the moon but only orbited, his mission, along with Collins and Aldrin, was the most important, although I did feel sorry for Collins, the command module pilot; he got to fly the most sophisticated spacecraft of the times… but circled the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin made history.
Of course, there was a boatload of fanfare when they returned… then you really didn’t hear a lot about Neal after that and, if I remember correctly, that was his last space flight. I was saddened to hear that one of the really important men in human history had passed away and while anyone who’s bothered to study American history these days can read about his role in history, well, it was a lot more fun being around when it actually happened.