At 10:56 PM EST on July 20. 1969 American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the moon… 240,000 miles from home. Nothing had ever united the masses both in the US and abroad as millions of people were glued to their televisions to watch this unearthly spectacle live. 15 minutes later Armstrong was joined by Buzz Aldrin to plant the Stars and Stripes.
Nearly every American is familiar with Armstrong’s first words when setting foot on the moon. Did you know, however, that the actual first words spoken from the moon were by Buzz Aldrin, when he reported “Contact light” to Mission Control in Houston as the lunar module first rested on the surface?
In America, where protests against the Vietnam War were taking place on nearly a daily basis and the presidency of Richard Nixon was becoming a lightning rod, citizens of all walks of life put their differences aside and expressed pride in the US achieving a once thought to be impossible achievement.
For those of you too young to have witnessed this historic drama unfold live on TV let me tell you a bit about 1969. The number one song in America was “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans. It is rather fitting that the song speculated about earth’s future at a time when man was walking on the moon for the first time. Here it is.
The number one movie was “The Wild Bunch” on the day of the moon landing. It was replaced the following week with a much more famous flick, the iconic “Easy Rider”, directed by Dennis Hopper, which introduced us to Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. It was about young people searching for America and not being able to find it. Sound familiar?
Muscle cars, like the Ford Mustang and Pontiac GTO were extremely popular. I guess so because gasoline only cost 35 cents per gallon. Speaking of gallons, you could buy a gallon of milk for $1.10. A loaf of bread could be had for 23 cents. You could buy a house for $40,000 and mail a letter for 6 cents.
Watching the moon landing, however, was priceless! Especially so with Walter Cronkite reporting for a nonstop 29 hours.
Back on our planet it was a typical summer day, unlike what we’ll see today. While July’s average high temperature in Salisbury is in the upper 80’s we’ll be flirting with 100 degrees both today and Sunday. That’s a far cry from the 260 degrees that the moon reaches during daylight, but it’s a whole lot warmer than the -280 degrees that the moon reaches at night.
It matters not where we live on planet Earth. The daily appearance of the moon reminds us that we’re all in this life together, for better or worse. It shines on us with the same beauty and intensity regardless of our color, our religion, or the language we speak.
Would it not be nice if Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs could find something today to help them cool off just a bit, put their tempers on ice, and take the time to truly take pride in a unique national achievement? I do not know what it could or would be, but the moon landing in 1969 serves as a reminder that it can be done!
Let’s do it! Then, let’s do it again!