I was seven years old at the time, and I remember getting woken up by my parents and being brought downstairs to where they had a great big party going on (for some reason I thought it was very late in the evening, although I now realize that it was only about 9:30 eastern time). There must have been a dozen people clustered tightly around our TV.
We all sat there in silence and stared at the blurry images coming from Mission Control. Walter Cronkite was explaining what was happening in great detail.
And then the immortal words came from the speaker. “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”. It’s one of my earliest memories and it STILL brings tears to my eyes as I remember it.
The world literally changed that day. We have forgotten so much of the wonder that those early explorations brought, the sense of magic that the images of a man, yes a human being standing on ANOTHER PLANET brought. Now we get excited when unmanned robots the size of vacuum cleaners scurry over the surface of mars. Or when a school bus sized observatory goes to Saturn.
But it isn’t the same thing. The visceral reaction to seeing a human being standing on a planet (or performing a space walk or repairing a telescope) adds a level of involvement that cannot be achieved by little scooters.
My thanks go out today to the crew of Apollo 11, for inspiring a generation.