In 1969 when astronauts from Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, took one giant step for man, one giant leap for mankind, I was 8 years old. I played with Barbies, ran through my neighborhood playing tag and on hot afternoons sometimes played the board game, Candyland. Watching television was a minor part of my existence reserved for Ed Sullivan and the Wonderful World of Disney.
On that day, July 20, 1969, and I vaguely recall being glued to the television set like most of the rest of the world, if they even owned a t.v. then because t.v.s weren’t ubiquitous. While I can’t totally trust my memories, I see myself peering intently at a fuzzy black and white screen in our basement rumpus room, watching as the man in a bulky white suit climbed down backwards from the module and took his first stiff and deliberate steps on the moon. It was hot outside because it was July and although I didn’t know much, I knew that what he and his fellow astronauts were doing was a really big deal. It was the moon, that white/grey orb that was predictable and visible way up there in the sky every night and they were walking on it. It was hard to imagine. I do remember having some niggling doubts about whether what I was seeing was real or Made for T.V. Cue the Conspiracy theorists. No, please don’t.
Fast forward 44 years and I’m on the couch in my apartment on Monday night. The Toronto Maple Leafs are playing but not being a hockey fan, that’s of no consequence to me. I have the t.v. on and my iPhone in hand and I’m listening to Cmdr. Chris Hadfield belt out his version of an old Bowie song that’s being replayed again and again on every Canadian network. My ability to see him and hear him and watch millions of other people’s fast-moving Twitter feed reactions to his journey amazed me more than all the science that he and his crew conducted up there during the past five months because it was real and it was right here, right in my hand.
I was going back and forth between my t.v. and the two-inch iPhone screen and I watched as the white parachute came careening towards the earth’s surface and then hit it, letting out a huge plume of smoke as the round tin can-like craft plunged hard into Terra firma. Can’t they find a more sophisticated way to get those guys back onto our home planet?
The fact that I could be sitting on my couch holding a two-inch screen in my hand and watching in full colour and sound as a Canadian astronaut was hurtling through space after a five month stint on the International Space station seemed more mind blowing to me than all the science we’ve been told he outdid himself on up there. For me the technology was real and it’s what allowed me to participate, however superficially.
Spin-off technology is the real giant leap for humanity. Were you alive in 1969? What do you remember about Apollo 11 and the first moon walk?