Sunday, July 20, 2014

Moonwalk Contemplations: 45 years later

And so among today's headlines are those heralding the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. Wow... 45 years ago.... I remember.... I was a 12 year old interested in science and technology, so the many space missions fascinated me to no end. And coming from a military family, I was always interested in the nature of aviation.. jet propulsion, all things space..... I was so excited about the notion of America landing a man on the moon that I followed the story from start to finish. I even had a model kit of the lunar landing module and the mothership. Oh yeah, I was a black kid in the 'hood with a keen fascination for the United States Space Program.

America was similarly fascinated with the expectation of world history being made by Neil Armstrong and his crew;. however, a lot of folk in my community had absolutely no interest in the space missions. It was a disappointment that the space missions would pre-empt our favorite television shows. Folk had other things to worry about in the 'hood. Equality, Discrimination, Economic disparity, Social Justice. Besides, in those days, we couldn't fathom the idea of a black astronaut, so the billions of dollars spent of sending rockets to the moon seemed like a waste - they could have used that money to end poverty.... community programs.... Flying to the moon was a notion that seemed to elude most of the folks in my community. Nonetheless, I watched.. enthralled by the entire process.

I watched as Neil Armstrong became the first person in world history to set foot on another world. I was aware that all over the world, townhalls, schools, churches, bars and other public gathering places were packed with folk clamoring to witness the greatest television event in history. AT my house, we watched on our television that my dad had purchased on one of his many sea voyages during his career in the US Navy. We were one of the first, if not the first, to own a color television in our neighborhood. And even though we had the best television available in those times, the picture that beamed in from the moon was black and white and grainy at best. IN spite of that, we were glued to the set, watching breathlessly as Armstrong descended the ladder of the Eagle and set his foot onto the Moon. He'd taken that proverbial "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

My Aunt Teenie(may God rest her soul), had been visiting us that week, from Pennsylvania. She joined us as we gathered around our television to witness this piece of world history. She watched as the Eagle made it's descent to the Moon, pausing only to refresh her cool beverage. It was summertime after all..... She sipped as Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface... she sighed as he made his now famous pronouncement. "Gregory, baby... do you really think he is on the moon??" "Yes Auntie... I do".. "Tell me why darlin'..." I proudly proceeded to tell her all the things I knew about the Space Program and why the United States has been able to win the space race(the US for most of the decade had designs on beating the USSR to the moon). Our technology was superior to anyone in the world. We have made it!!! Aunt Teenie looked at me with that loving look she always gave to us.. took a deep breath and said "Well Gregory, dear. I just don't believe any of this." Shocked I said "what do you mean Auntie??" "I just don't believe this at all... They are up there in Hollywood somewhere closed up in a movie set and showing this to the public so we can think they really went up there".... I was completely stymied.... "yeah baby... they ain't about to get up there. First of all, God ain't gonna let them fly that high, and if they have gone up there then we better start prayin because God don't need us in his space - who do we think we are?? Man always trying to get to heaven before our time.... we are meant to be here.. on earth"... She sipped her beverage and viewed the scenes on the television for a bit longer, looked at me and said "yeah, child, they are pulling a fast one on the people... those are special effects and actors jumping around on some movie set.. I just don't believe this mess... They need to find something else to do with our tax money"

I was flabbergasted at her assessment of the situation. But I had to admit deep down, she made a lot of sense.... In the following days, I would find that a LOT of folk in the 'hood shared her same opinion. It was beyond me. How could they think this? How could they be so paranoid that the government would go to such lengths as to fool the people? C'mon, Auntie!! For real?

And so 45 years later, as we observe the anniversary of the landing on the moon, Aunt Teenie's words still resonate in my memory and while I do believe they went to the moon and did what they said they did, I must contemplate my Auntie's analysis of the situation. It causes me to ask Why?

Why haven't they returned to the moon?

Why, 45 years later, is there not some observatory or space station built on the surface of the moon that would help them observe the heavens even the more?

Why hasn't any other nation placed a man on the moon or even tried?

Why? did they see something? Did they encounter something? Something that makes them say... nope, not going there!!!

Of course these are my own conspiracy possibilities and I am not an expert by any means. I'm just contemplating the thoughts in my mind, stimulated by my beloved Aunt's speculation as she watched the lunar landing alongside of us. It is interesting to note that quickly after the Apollo 11 mission, the nation seemed to tire of space flight. The notion that the US had beaten the Russians seem to be all that mattered. And according to one poll taken during the 30th Anniversary observance, said that, like Aunt Teenie, 6% of Americans believe the entire affair was a fake, carried out in some secret movie studio. They point to misplaced shadows, lack of stars and flapping flags even though the moon is airless as the evidence.

I believe the landings on the moon are real. However, I do pause and wonder.. why we haven't returned.... what is up there that causes them to derail the entire process. On that summer day in 1969, was my beloved Aunt Teenie right? The things that make you go hmmmmmmm.....