[FPSPACE] My memories of Apollo 11
ljk4 at msn.com
Fri Jul 17 12:52:54 EDT 2009
What took place may have happened four decades ago, but I still remember
it as if it were last Friday.
I clearly remember the evening when I sat with my immediate family ‘round the now small yet thick black-and-white television that only received analog signals in those days to watch the first men to land and walk upon the Moon that warm summer night so long ago now.
As I played with my toy truck and occasionally petted our beagle we named Snoopy after the Apollo 10 Lunar Module (oddly, our dog seemed to show neither interest nor understanding of what was going on through that colorless portal we semi-circled; Lassie would have been much more attentive and aware), my grandfather was grousing about various things, as usual.
He was unhappy that Laugh-In had been interrupted for this Moon landing business, even after my grandmother assured him the “Moon Show” as she called it would be over soon and he would get to see Goldie Hawn act silly in body paint next week. My grandfather was also unhappy that we choose to watch the event on CBS, for that network chose Walter Cronkite to narrate the historic occasion. Cronkite, a big space buff, was a natural choice to host the Apollo 11 mission for all of America to see, but my grandfather considered him to be some kind of “commie pinko liberal” for his public denouncement of the Vietnam War a year earlier, an unforgivable sin by my grandfather even if I had no idea what he was talking about.
In any event, we stared at the screen with its shades of gray, the endless chatter between Mission Control and Apollo 11, much of it cryptic to us typical Americans, and the attempts by Cronkite and cohorts to explain what was going on, occasionally resorting to simple plastic models of the spaceships to make the event clearer.
After what seemed like an eternity, the astronaut named Neil Armstrong began his slow descent down the ladder of the spaceship that brought him to the Moon named Eagle (my young ears thought they said Beagle, but no such luck). The camera made Armstrong look like a ghost and grandfather started complaining about how they could send a man to the Moon but they couldn’t take a decent picture of him doing it.
At last, Armstrong alerted the world 240,000 miles distant from him that he was going to step off the LM onto the lunar surface. I remember how after a brief pause he said something about making a small step on a man and then leaping on him in kind, which confused me, but since this was coming from an adult and the space program had seen fit to send him all the way to the Moon, it had to be profound and that was good enough for me.
Then it happened.
Armstrong (my young mind kept wondering if his arms were really so strong that that is how he got his name) was starting to describe what the ground beneath his booted feet was like when suddenly there was a sound that to my young ears reminded me of when the garbage truck would take our weekly refuse and start crushing it with its giant crushing machine.
Suddenly I noticed that the black, seemingly empty background behind Armstrong
began to move. In what seemed like an eternity but was perhaps only a matter
of seconds, the "sky" began to fall over into the lunar dust. There was a great
bang as the "sky" slapped against the supposedly alien ground, muffled only a
bit by the dust that billowed up in a great cloud around it.
The black "sky" was replaced by what looked like a large room with ladders going
in all directions. Several lights hung by their wires. Then a large blue and white
ball, which I recognized to be Earth, came crashing down on the Moon. I
remember finding this to be most odd, as my young, half-comprehending mind
wondered why we didn't feel a big bump if our planet had hit the Moon.
My immediate family let out a combination of gasps and quizzical looks at the
events unfolding on our television screen. Armstrong visibly jumped at the scene
and started staring wildly around.
"What??" he declared. "What happened?!", echoing the thoughts of perhaps
every person watching him back on Earth, which I would only later figure out
had not fallen on the Moon.
Then, as if from out of nowhere, three soldiers with rifles appeared. I knew they
were soldiers, because not only did I have little plastic copies of them with which
I played with all the time, but they also appeared on the TV a lot these days,
over in that place called Vietnam doing things which my grandfather praised while
the "liberal hippie pinko commies" said otherwise. My young mind wondered how
they got on the Moon before Armstrong if he was supposed to be the first man on
One of the soldiers marched right up to Armstrong, grabbed him by his spacesuited
arm, and roughly hauled him out of sight from the camera. Another soldier stood
at the base of the Lunar Module ladder and shouted up to the other astronaut
inside the ship, a man named "Buzz" Aldrin. He told him very loudly and very
quickly to get out of the ship RIGHT NOW! In seconds I saw the spacesuited
figure of Aldrin climbing down the metal ladder even faster than I had when my
parents were mad at me about something.
As the second soldier dragged Aldrin off the Moon as roughly as the first one had
treated Armstrong, the third soldier looked straight at us, or so it felt. His face,
blurred as it was by the poor camera image, was clearly anything but a happy one.
"What are you doing?!" I remember the third soldier barked at what I thought was
us, and I was much too frightened to think of anything other than I was just
sitting there watching history being made.
"Shut that camera off NOW!" he screamed next, using some extra words which I
knew were bad and my mother said I should never say, even if my grandfather
used them all the time.
Then the soldier rushed up to the camera, and with the end of his rifle, he
slammed it full force into electronic eye that had until then had been sending us
what I thought were live images from the Moon. There was a quick noise of
shattering glass and crushed metal, then total blackness and a most uncomfortable silence.
I can go on, if you want to know the rest.
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