25 August 2012

". . . the Eagle has landed."

Neil Armstrong flew the lunar module over a hostile, unknown terrain, coping with guidance errors and faulty computer alarms, and visually picked out a new landing spot as the targeted area was strewn with boulders. His companion, Buzz Aldrin, was reading the computer outputs of their velocity and altitude back to Houston on the radio and not even looking out his window. Armstrong set the Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility with his trademark sangfroid and made history. You had to be a cool cat to do that. You had to have some mad piloting skills, too. The first man on the moon and commander of Apollo 11 died today at the age of 82. Michael Collins, pilot of the command module Columbia, was quoted on the NASA website saying “He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.” As an explorer, astronaut, aviator, engineer, teacher, spokesman, leader, and role model, it's hard to argue. He was a hero of my youth--I was nine years old on July 20th, 1969, and the great moon adventure captivated me completely. The drama of human spaceflight launched my life-long interest in science. The Korean War veteran was the first civilian to fly a spacecraft--all the Mercury Seven and the first Gemini class were active-duty officers at the time of their maiden flights. His enduring legacy, both uniquely American and thoroughly universal, is etched in a plaque he and Aldrin left on the lunar surface:

We came in peace for all mankind.

Anchors Aweigh my boys,
Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
O'er our last night ashore,
Drink to the foam!
Until we meet once more,
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well done, Mark -- a geat loss and a great happening. I was married to a senior Navy pilot at the time and we knew a number of astronauts, including having met Neil Armstrong. They were a body apart, the astronauts, with great courage, obviously. Armstrong was indeed the classic American boy who quietly acheived great things -- and gave Americans great dreams. We all remember where we were that day, right? It has affected some very bright people, including you. Sincerely,Nancy