Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Apollo 11 - 20 July 1969

The day of the actual landing, I was in Spencer, IA, visiting my Aunt and Uncle. I walked out into the backyard and looked up at the moon in awe, saying to myself, 'My God! There are men up there!'

Growing up in the '50s, I was fascinated by 'space'. I read science fiction and any scientific magazines I could get my hands on in our little town. One of the authors of the Golden Age of SciFi, Robert A. Heinlein, had predicted in 1941 that the first moon landing would take place in 1978. I (and most people who were interested) thought he was wildly optimistic. As it turned out, of course, he was nine years too conservative!

Speaking of optimism, on the day of the landing, Walter Cronkite interviewed Heinlein and another of the Greats, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, CBE, FRAS. During the conversation, Clarke said, "the first baby will be born off the Earth before the end of the century"! Here we are, 52 years later, and we've not set foot on the moon in almost 50 years, and we've never been anywhere else in space.

However, as exciting and memorable as it all was (it's one of only four world events I can remember where I was and what I thought when they happened, the others being JFK's assassination [1963],  the loss of USSS Challenger [1983], and the fall of the Berlin Wall [1989]), it's not what I remember most. No, what to me was most memorable took place four days later, on 24 July, when Apollo 11 returned to earth.

On the way back to Topeka, where I lived at the time, I stopped in Marysville, KS to see my 92-year-old Grandmother. She was born in Sweden the year Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, so she had seen the march of modern technology from the beginning. Telephone, radio, TV, from the Wright brothers (she was 27, married 11 years, with four children when man first flew!) to supersonic jets, from the telephone to the beginning of the computer age, she had seen it all!

We were watching the return splashdown on TV when I asked her what she thought of men on the moon? She shrugged her shoulders, 'So what?' Nothing surprised her anymore. Well, except for one thing! I had mentioned that Col. Aldrin was of Swedish descent. About 10 minutes later, she turned to me, and with a quizzical tone of wonder, asked, 'You mean there was a SWEDE on the moon?!

Men on the moon? No big deal. A Swede, one of her people, on the moon? That was a different matter altogether!

R✠I✠P, Grandma, you are gone, but never forgotten.

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