Neil Armstrong passed away today. For you kids currently in school learning self esteem and how some mythical being created the earth 6000 years ago, Mr. Armstrong was an astronaut. He went up into space where there is no air, gravity, or internet, and returned to tell the tale. One particular thing he did will be remembered for as long as people exist on this planet. He was the first to walk on the moon. (In case you are wondering, the moon is that big round thing up in the night sky that changes shape every month. If you would put down your damn smartphone and look up once in a while you would already know that.) Anyways, Mr. Armstrong was the first of
16 12 men who walked around out there. Hopefully they won’t be the last.
If you grew up as a baby boomer like me you grew up with the space program. We followed it from the beginnings when Sputnik scared the hell out of everyone and held our breath with each mission as it got more complicated and dangerous. When manned missions began, everyone knew who the original seven astronauts were. As a nation we held our breath and stopped whatever we were doing to watch the launches on tv. We listened as Walter Cronkite would describe in detail each and ever aspect of the missions. And we cried a bit when there was a failure. When the Apollo Missions to the Moon began we watched and cheered like it was the Super Bowl. I remember sitting at home late at night with my father watching Mr. Armstrong take those first steps on another planet.
The space program has always been a special source of pride in this country. While people bitch about the money we spend on it, in reality much of our current technology and knowledge about this planet and our little corner of the galaxy can be attributed to advancements by the space program.
When I was in school there was a push for students to go into the sciences. Physics, chemistry, biology, all the major disciplines. The space program was just the beginning of a whole new future. Nobody was trying to spin some ancient tale of fables written by ignorant goat herders into a fact. Science was making new discoveries almost daily. Each discovery opened up new possibilities and asked more questions. Congress was looking for funding for new missions, not claiming that a woman could prevent pregnancy from rape by secreting a “special sauce”. Science was, is, and always will be the key to advancement with our species. It’s complicated, difficult to understand, and totally and completely fascinating as well as exciting. People like Mr. Armstrong are not just adventurers and explorers. They are people of science who used that brain thingy in their heads to find answers to questions a bit more complex than wondering which British royal member will get nekkid on video. They go out and learn stuff, and never ever settle for the way things are.
Want to join them? It’s easy. Throw away the bible and pick up a science book. Quit watching people on tv dancing and singing and go watch Cosmos. If you are following Isaac, go do some research on hurricanes and weather. It’s a fascinating subject. Instead of going out and drinking at a bar all night, fix yourself a nice little snack and go out someplace away from the lights of the city, find a nice place to sit and just look up into the night sky, and wonder. I’m sure Mr. Armstrong did at least once in his life.
So thanks to Neil Armstrong, and all the other astronauts, scientists, adventurers, and explorers, who have gone before us and blazed a few trails. Keep on blazing.
We will try to keep up.