Do you remember when government gave humanity hope for the future? A giant leap for mankind on July 20, 1969

July 20, 2017

It’s a day to remember history.  Do you remember that day, the first time humans set foot on the Moon?

God knows we could use more Americans to have faith in the good intentions of NASA scientists today; we could use more dreams like those NASA gave us then, too.

Southwest Elementary in Burley, Idaho, existed in a world far, far away from the U.S. space program. We watched rocket launches on black and white televisions — the orbital launches were important enough my father let me stay home from school to watch, but when he dropped me off at school, I was in a tiny band of students who actually made it to school. Potato farmers and the merchants who supported them thought the space program was big, big stuff, worth missing school.

By John Glenn’s flight, a three-orbit extravaganza on February 20, 1962, a television would appear in the main vestibule of the school, or in the auditorium, and we’d all watch. There were very few spitballs. Later that year my family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Earthrise from Apollo 11, before the Moon landing

Moonrise from Apollo 11 prior to Moon landing.

Toward the end of the Gemini series, television news networks stopped providing constant coverage. The launch, the splashdown, a space walk or other mission highlight, but the nation didn’t hold its breath so much for every minute of every mission. Barry McGuire would sing about leaving the planet for four days in space (” . . . but when you return, it’s the same old place.”), then six days, but it was just newspaper headlines.

The Apollo 1 fire grabbed the nation’s attention again. Gus Grissom, one of the three who died, was one of the original space titans; death was always a possibility, but the U.S. program had been so lucky. Apollo’s start with tragedy put it back in the headlines.

The space program and its many successes made Americans hopeful, even in that dark decade when the Vietnam War showed the bloody possibilities of the Cold War. That darkest year of 1968 — see the box below — closed nicely with Apollo 8 orbiting the Moon, and the famous Christmas Eve telecast from the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William A. Anders. The space program kept us hopeful.

By early 1969 many of us looked forward to the flight of Apollo 11 scheduled for July — the space flight that promised to put people on the Moon for the first time in history, the realization of centuries-old dreams.

Then I got my assignment for Scouting for the summer.  Out of nearly 50 nights under the stars, one of the days would include the day of the space walk. Not only was it difficult to get televisions into Maple Dell Scout Camp, a good signal would be virtually impossible. I went to bed Sunday night knowing the next day I’d miss the chance of a lifetime, to watch the first moon landing and walk.

Just after midnight my sister Annette woke me up. NASA decided to do the first walk on the Moon shortly after touchdown, at an ungodly hour. I’d be unrested to check Scouts in, but I’d have seen history.

And so it was that on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon: “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind,” was what he meant to say in a transmission that was famously garbled (at least he didn’t say anything about jelly doughnuts).

NASA provided a video compilation for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2009:

P. Z. Myers says he remembers a lawnmower going somewhere. It must have been very bright in Seattle. (Thanks for the reminder, P.Z., and a tip of the old scrub brush to you.)

2016 marks the 47th anniversary.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) lists 11 dates for U.S. history as the touchstones kids need to have: 1609, the founding of Jamestown; 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitutional Convention; 1803, the Louisiana Purchase; 1861-1865, the American Civil War; 1877, the end of Reconstruction; 1898, the Spanish American War; 1914-1918, World War I; 1929, the Stock Market Crash and beginning of the Great Depression; 1941-1945, World War II; 1957, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets. Most teachers add the end of the Cold War, 1981; I usually include Apollo 11 — I think that when space exploration is viewed from a century in the future, manned exploration will be counted greater milestone than orbiting a satellite; my only hesitance on making such a judgment is the utter rejection of such manned exploration after Apollo, which will be posed as a great mystery to future high school students, I think.)

* Why 1968 was such a tough year, in roughly chronological order: 1968 produced a series of disasters that would depress the most hopeful of people, including: the Pueblo incident, the B-52 crash in Greenland, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the nerve gas leak at the Army’s facility at Dugway, Utah, that killed thousands of sheep, Lyndon Johnson’s pullout from the presidential race with gathering gloom about Vietnam, the Memphis garbage strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots, the Black Panther shoot-out in Oakland, the Columbia University student takeover, the French student strikes, the tornadoes in Iowa and Arkansas on May 15, the Catonsville 9 vandalism of the Selective Service office, the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. Scorpion with all hands, the shooting of Andy Warhol, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Buenos Aires soccer riot that killed 74 people, the Glenville shoot-out in Cleveland, the cynicism of the Republicans and the nomination of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia crushing the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms, the Chicago Democratic Convention and the police riot, the brutal election campaign, the Tlatololco massacre of students in Mexico City, Black Power demonstrations by winning U.S. athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, coup d’etat in Panama. Whew!

More, from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

And even more:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

This is a bit of a traditional July 20 post, and yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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Remembering when government gave humanity hope for the future: A giant leap for mankind on July 20, 1969

July 20, 2016

It’s a day to remember history.  Do you remember that day, the first time humans set foot on the Moon?

Southwest Elementary in Burley, Idaho, existed in a world far, far away from the U.S. space program. We watched rocket launches on black and white televisions — the orbital launches were important enough my father let me stay home from school to watch, but when he dropped me off at school, I was in a tiny band of students who actually made it to school. Potato farmers and the merchants who supported them thought the space program was big, big stuff, worth missing school.

By John Glenn’s flight, a three-orbit extravaganza on February 20, 1962, a television would appear in the main vestibule of the school, or in the auditorium, and we’d all watch. There were very few spitballs. Later that year my family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Earthrise from Apollo 11, before the Moon landing

Moonrise from Apollo 11 prior to Moon landing.

Toward the end of the Gemini series, television news networks stopped providing constant coverage. The launch, the splashdown, a space walk or other mission highlight, but the nation didn’t hold its breath so much for every minute of every mission. Barry McGuire would sing about leaving the planet for four days in space (” . . . but when you return, it’s the same old place.”), then six days, but it was just newspaper headlines.

The Apollo 1 fire grabbed the nation’s attention again. Gus Grissom, one of the three who died, was one of the original space titans; death was always a possibility, but the U.S. program had been so lucky. Apollo’s start with tragedy put it back in the headlines.

The space program and its many successes made Americans hopeful, even in that dark decade when the Vietnam War showed the bloody possibilities of the Cold War. That darkest year of 1968 — see the box below — closed nicely with Apollo 8 orbiting the Moon, and the famous Christmas Eve telecast from the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William A. Anders. The space program kept us hopeful.

By early 1969 many of us looked forward to the flight of Apollo 11 schedule for July — the space flight that promised to put people on the Moon for the first time in history, the realization of centuries-old dreams.

But, then I got my assignment for Scouting for the summer — out of nearly 50 nights under the stars, one of the days would include the day of the space walk. Not only was it difficult to get televisions into Maple Dell Scout Camp, a good signal would be virtually impossible. I went to bed knowing the next day I’d miss the chance of a lifetime, to watch the first moon landing and walk.

Just after midnight my sister Annette woke me up. NASA had decided to do the first walk on the Moon shortly after touchdown, at an ungodly hour. I’d be unrested to check Scouts in, but I’d have seen history.

And so it was that on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon: “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind,” was what he meant to say in a transmission that was famously garbled (at least he didn’t say anything about jelly doughnuts).

NASA provided a video compilation for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2009:

P. Z. Myers says he remembers a lawnmower going somewhere. It must have been very bright in Seattle. (Thanks for the reminder, P.Z., and a tip of the old scrub brush to you.)

2016 marks the 47th anniversary.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) lists 11 dates for U.S. history as the touchstones kids need to have: 1609, the founding of Jamestown; 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitutional Convention; 1803, the Louisiana Purchase; 1861-1865, the American Civil War; 1877, the end of Reconstruction; 1898, the Spanish American War; 1914-1918, World War I; 1929, the Stock Market Crash and beginning of the Great Depression; 1941-1945, World War II; 1957, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets. Most teachers add the end of the Cold War, 1981; I usually include Apollo 11 — I think that when space exploration is viewed from a century in the future, manned exploration will be counted greater milestone than orbiting a satellite; my only hesitance on making such a judgment is the utter rejection of such manned exploration after Apollo, which will be posed as a great mystery to future high school students, I think.)

* Why 1968 was such a tough year, in roughly chronological order: 1968 produced a series of disasters that would depress the most hopeful of people, including: the Pueblo incident, the B-52 crash in Greenland, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the nerve gas leak at the Army’s facility at Dugway, Utah, that killed thousands of sheep, Lyndon Johnson’s pullout from the presidential race with gathering gloom about Vietnam, the Memphis garbage strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots, the Black Panther shoot-out in Oakland, the Columbia University student takeover, the French student strikes, the tornadoes in Iowa and Arkansas on May 15, the Catonsville 9 vandalism of the Selective Service office, the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. Scorpion with all hands, the shooting of Andy Warhol, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Buenos Aires soccer riot that killed 74 people, the Glenville shoot-out in Cleveland, the cynicism of the Republicans and the nomination of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia crushing the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms, the Chicago Democratic Convention and the police riot, the brutal election campaign, the Tlatololco massacre of students in Mexico City, Black Power demonstrations by winning U.S. athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, coup d’etat in Panama. Whew!

More, from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

And even more:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


July 24 – Arrival Day: Journey’s not over until you get there; we are not there yet

July 24, 2015

There’s a lot of encore material here — I think about this in the middle of the summer, and July 24 is a good day to commemorate arrivals: It’s Arrival Day. It’s Touchdown Day.

July 24 – almost the end of the month, but not quite.

  • July 24, 1847: A larger contingent of Mormons, refugees from a literal religious war in Illinois and Missouri, entered into the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Brigham Young, who famously said from his wagon sick-bed, “This is the place; drive on!”

In Utah, July 24 is a state holiday, to celebrate the date in 1847 that the Mormon refugees arrived in Salt Lake Valley and began to set up their agriculture and schools.  In Salt Lake City, bands from across the state and floats from many entities form the Days of ’47 Parade.  When I marched with the Pleasant Grove High School Viking Band, the route was  5 miles.  We had only one band uniform, for winter — I lost nearly 10 pounds carrying a Sousaphone.

When the Mormons got to Salt Lake, after a couple of months’ trekking across the plains (then known as “The Great American Desert,” the Great Basin and the Mojave being little known), and after being on the run for well over a year, they got right down to priorities.  Summer was nearly gone, and crops had to be planted quick.  Within a couple of weeks, the Mormons dammed local streams to create irrigation systems to grow what they could before fall (this is, popularly, the first major crop irrigation set up in America); they’d started to lay out plans for settlements, with straight streets based on Cartesian-plane grids:  The first serious community planning?  And they began construction of schools, knowing education to be one of the most important attributes in the foundation of free societies, a position Mormons have reneged on recently in Utah.  Water, communities, schools.

Heck, that’s a good campaign platform today. It’s with sadness I note few people run on such a platform, instead begging voters to be afraid of others who are different in some fashion. Fear quenches no thirst, makes no place for families, nor educates any curious child. Utah’s Mormon pioneers were on the right track. We’ve run out of the ruts, and we are not there yet.

Utahns will be flying their U.S. flags today.  (Remember, President Obama proclaimed this a period of mourning, through July 25; flags should fly half-staff where possible.)

Maybe spending a few weeks struggling across a prairie and risking your life focuses you on the important stuff.  How would it improve America if we put more people on a bus to Omaha, put them out there, and said, “Hike to Salt Lake City from here.”

They’d focus.  Can we start with Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell? Ted Cruz couldn’t make the journey. Donald Trump would die of sunburn. Wisconsin Gov. Ahab Walker would find no one to swindle, and talking down teachers and community builders wouldn’t be popular among fellow trekkers.

Ah, the good old days!

July 24 features a number 0f other arrivals, too.

From various “Today in History” features, AP, New York Times, and others, not in chronological order:

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • July 24, 1969: Apollo 11 returned to the Earth, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong — Aldrin and Armstrong having landed on the Moon.  In our celebrations of Apollo 11, and in our remembrances of President Kennedy, we may forget, though young kids rarely miss it, that Kennedy didn’t just say ‘Let’s put a guy on the Moon by 1970.’  Getting back safely was a key part of the challenge.

    First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

    On July 24, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 returned, safely.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ

Would there be a Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ, had the Mormons settled somewhere other than Utah? Wikipedia photo

  • July 24, 1866: Tennessee became the first of the Confederate States, the former “state in rebellion,” to be readmitted fully to the Union, following the end of the American Civil War. (Does Tennessee celebrate this anniversary in any way?)
  • July 24, 1911:  On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu in Peru.  We still don’t know all the reaons the Incas built that city on the top of very high mountains.  Cell service was not a factor.
  • July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France bicycle race. Little did we know then, the journey wasn’t over. (Lance Armstrong is no relation to Neil Armstrong.  Did I need to point that out?)
English: Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Ni...

Nixon advance man William Safire claimed later than he’d set up the famous “debate” between Eisenhower’s Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Premier Nikita Khrushchev, at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959. Nixon argued that the technology on display made better the lives of average Americans, not just the wealthiest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • July 24, 1959: Visiting Moscow, USSR, to support an exhibit of U.S. technology and know-how, Vice President Richard Nixon engaged Soviet Communist Party Secretary and Premier Nikita Khrushchev in a volley of points about which nation was doing better, at a display of the “typical” American kitchen, featuring an electric stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher.  Khrushchev said the Soviet Union produced similar products; Nixon barbed  back that even Communist Party leaders didn’t have such things in their homes, typically, but such appliances were within the reach of every American family.  It was the “Kitchen Debate.”Try explaining this to high school U.S. history students.  The textbooks tend to avoid this story, because it stops the class.  That’s a sign it should be used more, I think.  Does the Common Core even touch it?Nixon’s arrival as a major political force in the Cold War grew clear from this event.  The pragmatic stakes of the Cold War were drawn in stark contrast, too.  It’s interesting to ponder that microwave ovens were not part of the exhibit.

Cover of Time Magazine, July 22, 1974, explaining the showdown between President Richard Nixon and the Special Prosecutor, playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Image copyright by Time Magazine.

  • July 24, 1974: In U.S. vs. Nixon, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon had to turn over previously-secret recordings made of conversations in the White House between Nixon and his aides, to the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Watergate affair and cover-up.  Nixon would resign the presidency within two weeks, the only president to leave office by resignation.
  • July 24, 1975: An Apollo spacecraft splashed down after a mission that included the first link-up of American and Soviet spacecraft.  (The Apollo mission was not officially numbered, but is sometimes called “Apollo 18″ — after Apollo 17, the last trip to the Moon.)

More:

Salt Lake City, Utah, L. Hollard, photographer, 1912. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

Library of Congress image caption: Mormon Temple Grounds, Salt Lake City, Utah, L. Hollard, photographer, 1912. Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991 [The building on the far right? That’s the old Hotel Utah, where Kathryn and I had a great wedding reception with plenty of champagne considering our many Mormon family and friends — some of whom may have sampled a little to see what they usually missed. It was such a great reception that the owners of the hotel, the LDS Church, stopped holding wedding receptions there and shortly closed it as a hotel; now it’s an office building with a fantastic lobby that makes any sensible person wistful for what used to be.]

Hoping not to arrive painfully on touchdown:

Ogden, Utah, Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013.  Photo by Brian Nicholson

Bareback rider Jerad Schlegel of Burns, Colorado, clings to his horse as it falls to the dirt during a re-ride at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013. Photo by Brian Nicholson (go see his blog)

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 


July 24 – Arrival Day: The journey’s not over until you get there

July 24, 2013

There’s a lot of encore material here — I think about this in the middle of the summer, and July 24 is a good day to commemorate arrivals: It’s Arrival Day.

July 24 – almost the end of the month, but not quite.  In Utah, July 24 is usually a state holiday, to celebrate the date in 1847 that the Mormon refugees arrived in Salt Lake Valley and began to set up their agriculture and schools.  In Salt Lake City, bands from across the state and floats from many entities form the “Days of ’47” Parade.  When I marched with the Pleasant Grove High School Viking Band, the route was  5 miles.  We had only one band uniform, for winter — I lost nearly 10 pounds carrying a Sousaphone.

When the Mormons got to Salt Lake, after a couple of months’ trekking across the plains (then known as “The Great American Desert,” the Great Basin and the Mojave being little known), and after being on the run for well over a year, they got right down to priorities.  Summer was nearly gone, and crops had to be planted quick.  Within a couple of weeks, the Mormons had dammed local streams to create irrigation systems to grow what they could before fall (this is, popularly, the first major crop irrigation set up in America); they’d started to lay out plans for settlements, with straight streets based on Cartesian-plane grids:  The first serious community planning?  And they began construction of schools, knowing education to be one of the most important attributes in the foundation of free societies, a position Mormons have reneged on recently in Utah.  Water, communities, schools.

Maybe spending a few weeks struggling across a prairie and risking your life focuses you on the important stuff.  How would it improve America if we put more people on a bus to Omaha, put them out there, and said, “Hike to Salt Lake City from here.”

They’d focus.  Can we start with Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell?

Ah, the good old days!

July 24 features a number 0f other arrivals, too.

From various “Today in History” features, AP, New York Times, and others:

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon, July 20, 1969 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July 24, 1969: Apollo 11 returned to the Earth, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong — Aldrin and Armstrong having landed on the Moon.  In our celebrations of Apollo 11, and in our remembrances of President Kennedy, we may forget, though young kids rarely miss it, that Kennedy didn’t just say ‘Let’s put a guy on the Moon by 1970.’  Getting back safely was a key part of the challenge.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish

On July 24, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 returned, safely.

July 24, 1847: A larger contingent of Mormons, refugees from a literal religious war in Illinois and Missouri, entered into the Salt Lake Valley under the leadership of Brigham Young, who famously said from his wagon sick-bed, “This is the place; drive on!”

Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ

Would there be a Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and organ, had the Mormons settled somewhere other than Utah? Wikipedia photo

July 24, 1866: Tennessee became the first of the Confederate States, the former “state in rebellion,” to be readmitted fully to the Union, following the end of the American Civil War. (Does Tennessee celebrate this anniversary in any way?)

July 24, 1911:  On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu in Peru.  We still don’t know all the reaons the Incas built that city on the top of very high mountains.  Cell service was not a factor.

July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France bicycle race. Little did we know then, the journey wasn’t over. (Lance Armstrong is no relation to Neil Armstrong.  Did I need to point that out?)

English: Cropped image of Richard Nixon and Ni...

Nixon advance man William Safire claimed later than he’d set up the famous “debate” between Eisenhower’s Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party Premier Nikita Khrushchev, at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959. Nixon argued that the technology on display made better the lives of average Americans, not just the wealthiest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July 24, 1959: Visiting Moscow, USSR, to support an exhibit of U.S. technology and know-how, Vice President Richard Nixon engaged Soviet Communist Party Secretary and Premier Nikita Khruschev in a volley of points about which nation was doing better, at a display of the “typical” American kitchen, featuring an electric stove, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher.  Khruschev said the Soviet Union produced similar products; Nixon barbed  back that even Communist Party leaders didn’t have such things in their homes, typically, but such appliances were within the reach of every American family.  It was the “Kitchen Debate.”

Try explaining this to high school U.S. history students.  The textbooks tend to avoid this story, because it stops the class.  That’s a sign it should be used more, I think.  Does the Common Core even touch it?

Nixon’s arrival as a major political force in the Cold War grew clear from this event.  The pragmatic stakes of the Cold War were drawn in stark contrast, too.  It’s interesting to ponder that microwave ovens were not part of the exhibit.

Cover of Time Magazine, July 22, 1974, explaining the showdown between President Richard Nixon and the Special Prosecutor, playing out in the U.S. Supreme Court. Image copyright by Time Magazine.

July 24, 1974: In U.S. vs. Nixon, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon had to turn over previously-secret recordings made of conversations in the White House between Nixon and his aides, to the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Watergate affair and cover-up.  Nixon would resign the presidency within two weeks, the only president to leave office by resignation.

July 24, 1975: An Apollo spacecraft splashed down after a mission that included the first link-up of American and Soviet spacecraft.  (The Apollo mission was not officially numbered, but is sometimes called “Apollo 18″ — after Apollo 17, the last trip to the Moon.)

More information:

Hoping not to arrive painfully on touchdown:

Ogden, Utah, Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013.  Photo by Brian Nicholson

Bareback rider Jerad Schlegel of Burns, Colorado, clings to his horse as it falls to the dirt during a re-ride at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo Friday, July 19, 2013. Photo by Brian Nicholson (go see his blog)


Humanity’s hope for the future: A giant leap for mankind on July 20, 1969

July 20, 2013

It’s a day to remember history.  Do you remember that day, the first time humans set foot on the Moon?

(This is based on an earlier post.)

Southwest Elementary in Burley, Idaho, existed in a world far, far away from the U.S. space program. We watched rocket launches on black and white televisions — the orbital launches were important enough my father let me stay home from school to watch, but when he dropped me off at school, I was in a tiny band of students who actually made it to school. Potato farmers and the merchants who supported them thought the space program was big, big stuff.

By John Glenn’s flight, a three-orbit extravaganza on February 20, 1962, a television would appear in the main vestibule of the school, or in the auditorium, and we’d all watch. There were very few spitballs. Later that year my family moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Toward the end of the Gemini series, television news networks stopped providing constant coverage. The launch, the splashdown, a space walk or other mission highlight, but the nation didn’t hold its breath so much for every minute of every mission. Barry McGuire would sing about leaving the planet for four days in space (” . . . but when you return, it’s the same old place.”), then six days, but it was just newspaper headlines.

The Apollo 1 fire grabbed the nation’s attention again. Gus Grissom, one of the three who died, was one of the original space titans; death was always a possibility, but the U.S. program had been so lucky. Apollo’s start with tragedy put it back in the headlines.

The space program and its many successes made Americans hopeful, even in that dark decade when the Vietnam War showed the bloody possibilities of the Cold War. That darkest year of 1968 — see the box below — closed nicely with Apollo 8 orbiting the Moon, and the famous Christmas Eve telecast from the three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William A. Anders. The space program kept us hopeful.

By early 1969 many of us looked forward to the flight of Apollo 11 schedule for July — the space flight that promised to put people on the Moon for the first time in history, the realization of centuries-old dreams.

But, then I got my assignment for Scouting for the summer — out of nearly 50 nights under the stars, one of the days would include the day of the space walk. Not only was it difficult to get televisions into Maple Dell Scout Camp, a good signal would be virtually impossible. I went to bed knowing the next day I’d miss the chance of a lifetime, to watch the first moon landing and walk.

Just after midnight my sister Annette woke me up. NASA had decided to do the first walk on the Moon shortly after touchdown, at an ungodly hour. I’d be unrested to check Scouts in, but I’d have seen history.

And so it was that on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon: “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind,” was what he meant to say in a transmission that was famously garbled (at least he didn’t say anything about jelly doughnuts).

P. Z. Myers says he remembers a lawnmower going somewhere. It must have been very bright in Seattle. (Thanks for the reminder, P.Z., and a tip of the old scrub brush to you.)

2013 will mark the 44th anniversary.

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) lists 11 dates for U.S. history as the touchstones kids need to have: 1609, the founding of Jamestown; 1776, the Declaration of Independence; 1787, the Constitutional Convention; 1803, the Louisiana Purchase; 1861-1865, the American Civil War; 1877, the end of Reconstruction; 1898, the Spanish American War; 1914-1918, World War I; 1929, the Stock Market Crash and beginning of the Great Depression; 1941-1945, World War II; 1957, the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets. Most teachers add the end of the Cold War, 1981; I usually include Apollo 11 — I think that when space exploration is viewed from a century in the future, manned exploration will be counted greater milestone than orbiting a satellite; my only hesitance on making such a judgment is the utter rejection of such manned exploration after Apollo, which will be posed as a great mystery to future high school students, I think.)

* 1968, in roughly chronological order, produced a series of disasters that would depress the most hopeful of people, including: the Pueblo incident, the B-52 crash in Greenland, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the nerve gas leak at the Army’s facility at Dugway, Utah, that killed thousands of sheep, Lyndon Johnson’s pullout from the presidential race with gathering gloom about Vietnam, the Memphis garbage strike, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., riots, the Black Panther shoot out in Oakland, the Columbia University student takeover, the French student strikes, the tornadoes in Iowa and Arkansas on May 15, the Catonsville 9 vandalism of the Selective Service office, the sinking of the submarine U.S.S. Scorpion with all hands, the shooting of Andy Warhol, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Buenos Aires soccer riot that killed 74 people, the Glenville shoot out in Cleveland, the cynicism of the Republicans and the nomination of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia crushing the “Prague Spring” democratic reforms, the Chicago Democratic Convention and the police riot, the brutal election campaign, the Tlatololco massacre of students in Mexico City, Black Power demonstrations by winning U.S. athletes at the Mexico City Olympics, coup d’etat in Panama. Whew!

More, from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

And even more:


50 years ago today, Kennedy explained the Moon project to the nation

September 12, 2012

Statement this morning from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:

50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s Speech at Rice University

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 09:47:27 AM | Administrator Charles Bolden

English: Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr

NASA Administrator, Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr (Wikipedia image, probably from official photo; photo added here)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s “Address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space Effort,” when the young president shifted our efforts in space from low to high gear. In proclaiming, “We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy propelled our space program to the forefront of American culture and consciousness, galvanizing an historic effort on which we continue to build today.

Accomplishing Kennedy’s goals, both tangible and intangible, we have taken on his vision to create new challenges and now reach toward new capabilities and destinations. Neil Armstrong first left humanity’s footprint on the moon, and more importantly helped raise the “banner of freedom and peace,” fulfilling Kennedy’s vow to “not see [space] governed by a hostile flag of conquest.”

And we now stand on Armstrong’s shoulders to create a sustainable vision for the future exploration of space. Much like those aboard the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 missions cleared the path for Apollo 11 and Armstrong to land on the moon, our Curiosity rover on Mars is clearing the path for humans – Americans – to land on Mars. Our space program has developed new technologies that made human expansion into the solar system a reality. It created a global enterprise, now spinning off into the private sector, which continues to advance our nation and our world.

We realize now as we did then that we are not just on a mission to discover the universe; we are on a mission to discover ourselves. As astronaut Bill Anders, one of the first three humans to see the far side of the moon, put it, “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” We cannot forget that the purpose of space exploration is to make life on Earth better, even as we “increase our knowledge and unfold our ignorance,” as Kennedy said, and as we continuously raise the bar of human achievement.

As Kennedy hoped for greater achievements in science and education, in culture, and for peace, he could not have foreseen the degree to which we have unfolded our ignorance. He envisioned “new techniques of learning and mapping and observation, by new tools and computers for industry, medicine, the home as well as the school.”

There are literally thousands of examples of exploration technology being adapted for life on Earth, and a few areas where we have surpassed Kennedy’s greatest dreams: artificial hearts; retrofit systems that convert gas-powered vehicles into gas-electric hybrids, used in such trucks as mail delivery trucks for the U.S. Postal Service; health and fitness monitoring technology capable of measuring and recording vital signs of soldiers, first responders, professional athletes, and consumers seeking to get in shape; and parachutes capable of rescuing entire planes.

Our fleet of Earth observation satellites track hurricanes and wildfires and are able to analyze landslide motion and keep watch on agricultural fields. They provide continuity of data over the long term to help us see how our planet continues to change as a unified system. Our research on the International Space Station has helped us understand processes such as bone and muscle loss especially applicable to our senior citizens.

All this innovation has saved countless lives and billions of dollars, all the while creating thousands of jobs.

And we continue to reach higher. We have opened a new door to commercial space, for instance, helping facilitate a new space transportation industry to low Earth orbit.

Today, to “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” as Kennedy charged us, we’re doing things like landing that small SUV-size rover on Mars, now transmitting high definition images and information, which will lead to a better understanding of the Martian environment and the different ways Mars and Earth evolved. By 2018 we will launch our new James Webb Space Telescope, which will serve as our eye in the sky, peering deeper into the universe than ever before.

We’re building our Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket in history, and Orion, the new multi-purpose vehicle crew capsule, which will lead to the first-ever crewed missions beyond the low Earth orbit and the Moon into deep space. President Obama charged us with increasingly difficult challenges, beginning with sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by the mid-2030s. The journey there will be full of discoveries and new technological breakthroughs.

So while President Kennedy christened our sails on the new sea of space exploration, our work is far from done. Thanks to President Obama, this generation’s young president, we are witnessing a christening of a rejuvenated space program, where we will traverse previously untouched terrain, learning from our past and building on it to forge a bright future.

To watch President Kennedy’s historic speech, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=151776051

Also, see the next post at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.


Goodnight, Moon; farewell, Neil Armstrong; goodbye dream – Oliphant, and Tyson

September 9, 2012

Two thoughts:

Pat Oliphant cartoon, on death of Neil Armstrong, and dreams to go to the Moon

Pat Oliphant cartoon, upon the death of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the Moon.

And this one, with Neil de Grasse Tyson, “We stopped dreaming”:

Oliphant’s cartoon shows a future under Mitt Romney and continued GOP domination of the House and Senate — no more Neil Armstrongs doing peaceful work for NASA, like going to the Moon.  Tyson expresses hope for something different.

No, it’s not “time to come inside, Grampaw.”  It’s time to vote.  Vote for the guys whose budget doesn’t say “America cannot afford to be great anymore, American cannot afford to dream.”

Ha!  A third thought:

Cover of Goodnight, Moon

Cover of Goodnight, Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Clement Hurd

More:


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