All civilizations become either space-faring or extinct. -Carl Sagan
Post#: 200-19 – Words: 2008 – Audio: N/A
Please beam me up.. NOW!
Man walking on the Moon is being celebrated today… 50 years since what has been arguably man’s greatest technological achievement, which in itself was the culmination of every achievement of man since he (she) developed a language, controlled fire, and invented the wheel. But perhaps of greater importance it represented the pinnacle of man’s eternal quest at just being man; living with the instinct to be curious, to try and understand the physical world around him, and keep pushing and exploring and conquering… and bettering himself along the way.
Wait.. did I just say.. “bettering” himself along the way? Difficult to imagine all of man’s history was a quest to “better” himself given all that’s happened in history to this point.. and a lot of it was damned tragic. But maybe we need to separate the moral evolution of man as part of dealing with technological advances along the way. The greatest dilemma to our survival since day one has been, and is, trying to manage ourselves and at the same time live with each other in order to survive as a species.
On July 20, 1969 I had just graduated from high school almost a month before to the day. I was 18 and happy as hell to be out of academia. Yet on the other hand I was suffering from what a lot of many new HS grads suffer from… what do I do with the rest of my life? The spoken and unspoken peer pressures from parents and friends to have some sort of success plan going toward a career affected me greatly. I was going to be a failure in life unless I lived up to someone else’s standards, or so I was feeling at the time. Up to that point in my life there were only two things I always wanted to do… own a business and be in politics. Quite honestly I was ill-prepared for both, and even with some college, anything would take years… and we all know newly graduated teens are always in a hurry to get somewhere that takes time.
The other pressure was the Vietnam War and the draft. If I was deciding against college, or putting off the start to it, I was likely going to get drafted. I was not anti-war in those days and I had a solid interest in history. I fully knew at the time that this was the war for my generation… and maybe I should consider getting into it somehow. After all, TV and the movies at the time were all reflecting the achievements of the Greatest Generation (a term attributed to newsman Ted Koppel years later) of which my own folks were members. I also had a respect for all things military. But there was always that nagging voice in my head.. advocating for some measure of self-preservation. So.. VERY reluctantly, I applied to some colleges and managed to get accepted (with my “C” average grades) to some junior college three hours away… and got my draft deferment.
But this was the first summer after my graduation! A last hurrah before “adulthood”! I managed to go full time work at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken I had been working for part-time… making a huge $1.14 and hour. Those losers working at the local MacDonald’s, the rite-of-passage job along with K-Mart, were stuck with their “lousy” $1.10/hr.
One of my many hobbies was audio recording. Had there been video recording I’d likely have had a vastly different career. But the state-of-the-art stuff included large reel-to-reel audio recorders and in the late 1960’s and early 70’s out came cassettes. I audio taped damn near anything that made a noise in those days. My folks.. very wisely.. in my junior year, gave me as a Christmas gift a portable full size reel-to-reel tape recorder and I took that thing all over the place. I even got permission from the high school music director to record various concerts from the orchestra pit.. and setting my stereo microphones directly on the stage. I still have some of that today, saved to digital on the computer.
One subject I did record was TV show themes.. and even some historical news events of the day, just by putting a microphone in front of the TV. I have an original of Nixon’s resignation speech.. his speech when he stopped bombing Cambodia, Johnson stopping the bombing of the North for the peace talks, the coverage of the evacuation of Saigon. I also have a series of short audio clips of the stages of the Apollo 11 launch, Moon landing, and recovery.
This first clip is about 16 minutes going into the launch of Apollo 11.
This second clip is the Moon landing. Of personal note… when you hear, “Houston… Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” you will hear my mother clapping, a muted scream or two… some bells… and my sis talking. Both my sis and mother passed away decades ago and that is the only audio of their voices still remaining. My mother had always been a HUGE astronaut fan from the early Mercury 7 days… and she would watch each launch and recovery.. and cry and yelp. About 16 min.
This third clip is about 16 minutes as Armstrong was getting ready and finally stepping on the surface of the Moon for the first time.
Astronauts walking on the surface.. and phone call from President Nixon. About 10 min.
Leaving the Moon. About 6 min.
Recovery in the ocean. About 10 min.
A Historical Reflection
Even though the years following the Moon Landing had the successes, and tragedies, of the shuttle missions, there was no more collective feeling of entering a bold, new frontier where no one had gone before. In fact, even before all the following Apollo missions had been completed public interest was waning regarding the space program. Oddly, much of that could be the result of so many successful missions and overall success of NASA to the point that it became commonplace to expect everything to go “as planned”. But to the public it seemed there was an actual race.. the race to beat the Soviets.. beat the Commies.. to the Moon, and get that flag planted there. After we did that… there was no more race.. no more wind to our sails to move further, expand and explore. People “sometimes” remember Armstrong’s name.. but the other two?
After a few years following the Moon Landing I began to understand more how Armstrong was a rather non-hero, hero. He was indeed the first human being to walk on the Moon but his persona was more along the lines of a shy, private, and non-publicity Charles Lindbergh. But Armstrong didn’t achieve the event so much because of his personal drive, determination, and fortitude. He happened to be selected. More an assignment of fate than personal accomplishment. He also had no interest toward being a public person. He could have gone on to speech-making… book writing… being an activist for further space travel… a spokesperson for NASA… heck, had he been more outgoing he might have sought public office. So the man himself seemed to just add to the diminished interest of the space program.. and the public preferred to save the money and use it elsewhere. Now.. this does not mean one iota that Armstrong does not deserve his place in history for the accomplishment. He does for sure. Most certainly the fact that he WAS an astronaut and selected for the Moon mission is a strong and admirable tribute to his determination and dedication to the program and performing outstandingly to be selected. But his passion and drive for the space program was more for the team effort than for being hailed as an individual, and becoming a public centerpiece for stimulating interest.
Some Historical Tidbits
Honestly.. if it weren’t for the media coverage I’d have not recognized this exact date as being meaningful 50 years ago. To me the event occurred “the Summer I graduated from high school”… and then I feel old. An interesting paradox… the year, 1969, was smack in the middle between 1968 and 1970… that three year period chock full of political assassinations in the mews, the War, the anti-war movement and demonstrations; many tuned violent. Civil rights violence; urban riots… terrorist bombings from political extremists. I often thought the world was literally popping at the seams. The Moon Landing was a bit of escape from all that. A piece of GOOD news in an otherwise period of cultural and political rage. We paused, even if only for the time it took for Armstrong to utter, “One small step for man…”. For that one moment there was a sense of purpose, achievement, and of something greater than ourselves because it was an achievement of man.
Now it’s 2019. I’m here to tell you as a witness to those days of rage nothing today compares to that violent upheaval. Regardless… today does indeed “hurt” in similar ways with the culture struggle and political divisiveness and a renegade president contributing to it all. Yet.. we are pausing enough to again remember an event of 50 years ago when it seemed at the time the nation was turning to crap… and we can reflect back.. mostly us Baby Boomers… to maybe think again that there’s something greater than a lot of this petty garbage… and there’s a slight hope that a future is “out there” where we can emerge from this and get on with the important things collectively.
To End This…
I thought I’d toss in a couple historical news events of July, 1969…
On July 1, 1969 the Army and Air Force dropped the “serial number” assigned to each service member. Anyone inducted after June 1 could use their Social Security number.
On July 8, 1969 the first of 25,000 American troops to be withdrawn from the Vietnam War arrived at McCord Air Force Base in state of Washington, south of Seattle at 6:30 in the evening, with a C-141 transport plane, one of nine to land at McCord, arrived.
On July 10, 1969 the first parade for Vietnam War veterans took place, with the men of the 3rd Battalion, 60th Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division of the United States Army marching through Seattle to the cheers of supporters and the booing of demonstrators from the Seattle Anti-War Action Movement.
On July 11, 1969 David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity” (about a fictional astronaut, “Major Tom”), was released by Philips Records in conjunction with the expected launch of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. The song had been recorded three weeks earlier.
On July 15, 1969 one month before the Woodstock Festival rock concert was to take place, the zoning board of the town of Wallkill, New York, banned Woodstock Ventures from using land that the organizers had leased and had cleared . The legendary rock concert would take place instead at a farm near Bethel, New York, 40 miles (64 km) away. A the time that the event had been barred from Wallkill, advance tickets had been sold at prices of up to $18.50 for all three days (equivalent to $128 in 2019), and the plan was to have music only during the hours between 2:00 in the afternoon to 2:00 the next morning. By the time Woodstock took place, most of the 400,000 people in attendance had gotten in without paying.
On July 19, 1969… Chappaquiddick and Ted Kennedy’s problems.
On July 26, 1969 J-Lo.. Jennifer Lopez, was born.
If you lived in Chicago in 1969 and you liked rock & roll you would have listened to WLS or WCFL. WLS was the favorite of the day, back when radio personalities actually had personalities. The station would print each week their list of popular tunes for the week, based on record sales and you could get the WLS Silver Dollar Survey, or what later became their Hit Parade, at the local record stores. This is an illustration of the popular tunes for the month prior to Apollo 11.
My other sites… if you’re interested…