Tonight marks the 50th anniversary of man's first steps upon the moon and it brings back some memories that I want to share. Among them the customer who came into the store today and laughed about the anniversary and made it clear that the landings never happened. I'm old enough to know it did. I watched it on live television. The science is out there to prove that it happened. Scientists bounce lasers off reflectors left behind on the moon by two of NASA's lunar missions to measure the distance between the earth and the moon.
I was 12-years-old and living in Abilene, Kansas. The family gathered around a black and white RCA television to watch the events of July 20, 1969 unfold on a Sunday. The landing was exhilarating, the wait for the walk was agonizing. It happened after dusk. We diligently watched Walter Cronkite with Wally Schirra, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, walk us through the events as they unfolded.
A family member played some role in the mission to the moon. My Uncle Bob Walters, worked for the University Kansas in the space/technology building. Uncle Bob said they were involved with the moon mission but would never discuss its details due to some supposed secrecy. I wish in later years that I had talked to him about what exact role the university played before his passing.
The only other moon related experience that has stuck with me is when I had a chance to meet Neil Armstrong, the commander of Apollo 11 and the first man to step on the moon. I had just moved to Phoenix, Arizona and was producing the 10 p.m. for the CBS station. The company that owned us was throwing some sort of big party at the station.
The station was owned by Taft Broadcasting and by that time Neil Armstrong was on the board of directors for the company. I am uncertain as to why the party was being held. But I was there, in one of the station's massive, unused studios where all of the big wigs were drinking cocktails.
Armstrong was introduced to the gathering. All that I remember is that I felt awe and was too shy to go up to him and speak to him. I may have gotten to shake his hand. I don't remember so I doubt that I did. I'm fairly certain I had to leave in short order to get back to work, but I did see the man, flesh and bones, a true American hero.
I've thought a lot in this last week about the moon missions. The program was heavily criticized because of its expense. I think it's boneheaded to do so. The science that came out of the moon program enhanced our lives. The computers, the miniaturization, the jobs, it all made for a better America.