July 20, 2014 9:22 pm
Today’s guest post is by Sarah Cotten, collected on the StarTalk Radio Tumblr page.
July 20th, 1969. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. It was a defining day for history, one that left so many Americans in awe around their television sets, daring them to dream about outer space. Everybody has a story, of course. How they felt when they first watched it, wondering about what the world was going to offer them now, with rockets and men on the moon.
For many of us, our story is different. It was a fact for us, men on the moon and the lunar landing. We memorized names and dates in elementary school, drew pictures of the moon and it’s craggy surface. We were born too late, days, maybe years after we visited the moon.
I wasn’t born yet, when Neil Armstrong transmitted his famous speech across radio waves. My parents were children, not even residing on the same continent. While I’ve lived through many momentous events in my lifetime, this was one that I had to watch on repeat. I remember being a child, on a school field trip. We went to the Vanderbilt Planetarium on Long Island, NY. It seemed so large to me, this small little girl who was already a daydreamer. We sat in chairs that leaned back, and watched the dizzying array of stars and planets flash across the black screen.
When I got home from school that day, I told my dad, and somehow, before the magic of the Internet, it only took him days to find a recording of it. We watched it together, on our old TV that looked like furniture, the sunlight streaming in through the big window. I remember hearing Neil Armstrong speak, watching it for the first time, feeling giddy with wonder. See, I have a big imagination, and somehow, I always felt hopeful looking up at the stars. The possibilities were limitless up there, and now, I had finally seen magic on the moon. (I was a fantastical child, believing in dragons and wizards and fairies.)
To this day, I’ve bought my father every Hallmark Space ornament, a reference to one event we shared together, that I will never forget.
When Buzz Aldrin asked “Where were you when Apollo 11 landed?”, I went to our Tumblr asking people younger than 45, how it felt when they first experienced Apollo 11. Here are some of the responses:
From our Tumblr Community
(Please note that this posts links to the Tumblrs of some of people who told us their stories, and that we are not responsible for any content you may encounter on their blogs.)
Where was I during the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20th, 1969? I was just a speck of dust floating among the stars. Not even a thought yet, or much less an idea since my very own mother was only 6 years old at the time – A naïve but precocious little child growing up in The Bahamas. But even though I wasn’t alive during that awe-inspiring moment in human history, I still feel a sense of pride in our species when Neil Armstrong made his mark on the lunar surface: uttering that famous line which sent shivers of joy down everyone’s spine.
Born in 1983 I was only about 9 or 10 years old when I first watched a recording of the Lunar Landing. My grandfather loved to watch documentaries and anything knowledgeable about the world around us and I would share in his excitement. From shows about different animal species across the globe to television specials dealing with human culture and history, we practically watched them all. If memory serves me right, I can even picture sitting a foot away from the 32” TV Tube in my grandparent’s living room (I think at the age of 7), watching snippets of the original Cosmos series with Carl Sagan on the only local television station that the country had at the time – ZNS13. What’s more, the documentaries which have always had the greatest impact on me were those about astronomy and space travel. So when I first saw those retrorockets firing and Neil Armstrong stepping down from that ladder, I was speechless. Man really did walk on the moon and I was seeing it with my very own eyes! And when Mr. Armstrong said those 12 simple words; I could still remember the goose bumps on my skin as I stared at the black and white images. Even as I write this, there are little chills running throughout my body!
Right then and there I was hooked, and I have never stopped from looking up at space; wondering where did we all fit in the universe? What was our purpose? Can you believe it, me; the irritatingly curious child, annoying the grown-ups and thinking up such deep thoughts at an age where people expected me to get into fights and play in the mud. Thinking of questions that most of the adults couldn’t answer, other than saying it was not our place to know and only God had the answers. Well, that wasn’t enough for me – and for those who know me well enough, they know that hasn’t changed. So when I became a teenager and people began asking me what I was going to do with the rest of my life; I first said a cop. Then that changed into a teacher which then eventually evolved into becoming a Cardiologist. Mainly because there was more science involved in that field of study than any of the other choices that I had come up with previously. At the time I didn’t think I had the technological skills or know-how of the complex nature of Astrophysics and Astronomy. But as I got older, my understanding grew. Through school, speaking with every professional within the many scientific fields I could come across (I mostly listened as I kept learning something new); and just as importantly, also sharing experiences with everyone who’s interests about space and technology was based out of simple curiosity (Also cannot forget about Cosmos). There’s no doubt in my mind, now, that the answers lie beyond the ground and I will never stop looking up. All thanks to a bunch of brave physicists, engineers and explorers who dared to challenge authority and life itself; leaving humanity’s mark in a place that no one else thought possible. Along with the many other heroes who fight for our freedom on a daily basis: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and the rest of the Apollo 11 crew, I salute you!
I was born in 1996, long after Apollo 11. I grew up with the Space Shuttle, and the ISS, not the Saturn V and the moon landings. I don’t remember the first time I learned about Apollo, or Neil and Buzz. The moon landings are such a big part of our culture, it’s hard to say exactly when I first saw or heard about them. So I grew up looking back, back at what NASA accomplished in the past. But Apollo and the Shuttle forced me to look up. I get chills when I look at the moon at night, knowing that the remnants of six landings still sit on the surface. Apollo 11 inspired me to want to push the frontier, and the boundaries of the impossible. In the third grade I wrote that I wanted to be a rocket scientist. And now at 18 I’m entering college to major in Aerospace Engineering. So while I missed Apollo 11, it most certainly grew up with me. And it pushed me to want to inspire the dreams of the next generation.
Hi there, my name is Jen and I’m 24. My first time seeing the moon landing was when I was 9 and I watched Apollo 13 for the first time. That scene showing Neil Armstrong taking the first steps onto the moon, hearing him say those famous words and Walter Cronkite taking his glasses off in amazement is just as evocative now as it was then.
The first time I watched the lunar landing it was being replayed on the evening news. I was 6. I could not believe that people were there, up there! In the mind of a six year old, they were there on the moon that very second walking around, rather than this being a replay of previous happenings. I remember watching the footage and running outside to see if I could see the men walking around on the moon. I said to myself, I’m going to go. As life would have it, I did not go. I did, however, continue my love of science and math and I became a Math teacher; so others could go…
I’m 26 yrs old. When I was around 5 yrs old I remember staying up to watch a lunar eclipse. My dad explained to me that it was the earth’s shadow passing over them moon. That alone was the coolest thing I had ever heard. After the eclipse he took me inside and asked if I wanted to see something even cooler. We then logged onto the computer and he showed me pictures of the first lunar landing. To this day whenever I see the moon I look up at it and say to myself, “We’ve been there!”
The first time I watched a man land on the moon in some dark,cramped portable on a grainy school TV, all I could think about was my mother telling me her own story of when she was a little girl. The amount of wonder the Apollo landing instilled into her carried on throughout her entire life, fostered childhood dreams of becoming a scientist: it lead her into medicine, and ultimately passed down to her children. As a family, we think big like those same astronauts whose dreams led them to the moon.
Oh, memories of Apollo 11… Mom had a first day cancellation stamp. I asked her about it. She said I could get the basics of space travel from the encyclopedia, one of two sets we had. There was a problem, though. Both sets were printed in 1965. This was 1973. I eagerly opened them each to Apollo. There was only information about the Greek god. So I turned to NASA. There was a wealth of info, but it only went up to Gemini. Then, one of the television channels showed Apollo 11, Armstrong jumping lightly to the surface. I cried. I cried later watching The Right Stuff. I still get teary. We did it. We did it and we did it again. We can still do it, and we can do it on Mars.
We can go and see and do. It’s who we are. It’s being a member of the human race.
Submitted to our Tumblr Community
Submitted by Danny George Goldsmith
I still remember the first time my parents told me that when they were young man stepped into the moon. As a young child I was in awe, I had such a feeling of amazement and curiosity. I asked my parents how did they get up there it’s so high! They smiled and said they used a big rocket to get there. Ever since then my wonder and curiosity for the universe has shaped and molded who I am.
Submitted by Nick from Manchester, UK
Having been born in 1985, I missed the Moon landings. Even so, it’s one of my earliest memories because my parents had two very old, very battered VHS tapes called ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’. They were edited highlights, in black & white, of the Apollo 11 mission and subsequent missions respectively. I can still remember being 3 or 4 years old and watching ‘T.E.H.L.’ and knowing, REALLY knowing, that I was watching something amazing.
Submitted by Anonymous
For me, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon was one of the most exciting things I have ever heard about, even though it happened over 20 years before I was even born. Just the thought of 3 men traveling a quarter of a million miles away and landing on another world was almost unimaginable. But I realize its not as if it was just Neil responsible for it. It took years of studying the stars and coming up with the technology. So to all the people responsible, thank you for inspiring our generation.
Submitted by Katharine Gamble
The Impact of Apollo 11 on a 20-Something
I may not have been alive for the historical moment when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the Moon, but it has shaped my life ever since I was old enough to understand what had happened.
I remember seeing the video clips in elementary school, and periodically ever since. I became enthralled with space exploration, and I grew up wanting to be an astronaut. I decided to go to a well known university for aerospace engineering, Purdue, because that’s where all the astronauts had come from (other than military schools). Throughout internship experiences, I realized I no longer wanted to be an astronaut. Instead, I wanted to be my generation’s Gene Krantz. As I learned more and more about the space program, I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school and get an advanced degree. While I had originally intended to graduate with a Master’s, I’ve stuck around for the PhD and will be graduating in May 2015.
Apollo 11 was one of the reasons that I embarked on the journey I did. Now, as I am nearing my defense and graduation, I am excited to take on my “giant leap” into the working world. I hope to make as big of a difference as Neil Armstrong did.
Submitted by Heidi Hecht
I would have liked to have been part of the crowd in Times Square that watched a little spacecraft called Eagle land on the Sea of Tranquility. Though I’m too young to actually remember it, watching the footage of Neil Armstrong taking his “one small step” actually inspired me to apply for a private organization called Mars One, which will send settlers to Mars starting in 2024. I am sorry that Neil Armstrong left us before he could see people put the first bootprints on Mars, and I hope that Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins will live to see that day.
Submitted by Tim Forster
Born in the 80s, I was a Space Shuttle freak. I loved it from an early age. At “show and tell” in pre-school, I presented a scale model of the Shuttle, and described a typical launch, step-by-step.
It was only later that I started to get into the history of NASA, and the eras preceding the Shuttle.
Growing up in central Ohio, I had access to Wapakoneta’s Neil Armstrong Museum, and Dayton’s National Air Force Museum. To see relics of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects in person really drove the point home that these first steps into space were risky, claustrophobic and wildly adventurous.
To me, the Apollo program constitutes mankind’s greatest engineering achievement (including the giant crawler-transporters – designed and built in my hometown). Considering the embryonic state of computer and guidance technology at the time, it is an astounding accomplishment.
It also, to me, all comes down to perspective. For the first time ever, and since, human beings visited another celestial body and gazed up at our home, Earth. We saw it for what it truly is, a small blue sphere in a sea of black, pinpointed with dots of light. Carl Sagan described the idea most eloquently when he spoke of the “Pale Blue Dot”, but Apollo provided us with the perspective for the first time that we are just passengers aboard Spaceship Earth.
That’s why a few years ago I got my first tattoo, portraying the famous photograph from Apollo 8, “Earthrise”.
We received so many wonderful responses from the whole community. Please visit our Apollo 11 blog post for the responses people posted in comments. I loved reading through them!
~ Sarah Cotten
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