In 1979, Sandra and I decided to take a driving trip to Florida for a vacation, something we had not been able to do for several years while our two sons were very small.
We scheduled our trip before the Apollo 11 moon mission dates were announced, so we did not connect it to the mission that would attempt to send men to the moon and return them to earth.
We had planned a visit to the Space Center, space mission underway or not, so we hurried down the east coast of the peninsula and had a motel room reserved in Cocoa Beach near the Space Center. At the visitors center, we were assigned to a bus that would carry us and other tourists on a tour of the place.
There is a great deal there to see, and the bus had a connection to a broadcast about the mission that was nearing the moon. A big thrill was when they carried us to the pad from which Neil Armstrong and his buddies had lifted off a few days earlier.
The small craft that carried two of them to the moon’s surface was descending as we studied their liftoff site. Then as we returned to the bus and were pulling off from their liftoff pad, the bus loudspeakers told us that the Eagle had landed. That was pretty neat. We were at their liftoff site when they landed on the moon!
That night we rested in our motel room, and soon Sandra and the boys were sound asleep. Then I remembered a sign nearby about a moon walk party at another motel. I quietly dressed and eased out.
The liftoff crowd was big, and they must have been partying for a while. It included people who worked at the Space Center. They were excited to see their work going to its conclusion but also concerned about the safety of the astronauts.
I talked with some Space Center employees among the partiers, and they were far more excited than I was. Well, they were involved. Later I’m not sure what I couldn’t hear from the TV, maybe Armstrong’s step-leap quote, but it inspired the crowd to break into singing our national anthem. We had showed the Soviets! It is quite a memory.
All of this is very exciting as you consider that technology has brought us beyond the dreams of most of our ancestors. Also, it’s not just the fear of nuclear war that we face but of the destruction that misuse of technology could cause. Apparently technology already has interfered in U.S. elections.
As for space travel, I don’t know that I’m interested. I like Earth even with its many faults. Space travel will be for the 1 Percent, anyway.
It was all unexpected, but being at the liftoff site when the Eagle landed and then being at a party of people involved and their unrehearsed and unplanned shouting out of the "Star-Spangled Banner" were high points in my memories.
Thom Anderson is a former editor of the Morning News.