Thursday, August 2, 2012


Well, I was so busy with summer in Maine that I forgot all about Neil Armstrong's walk as the first man on the moon on July 20, 1969. I'll bet you forgot, too. Where were on you that date and did you care that we had made it to the moon?

I can tell you that I was working as a waitress on Fishers Island in Long Island Sound, and I couldn't have cared less, to use a favorite expression of my father's. Despite growing up in the shadow of Cape Canaveral rocket gantries, I was almost 19 and in the process of rejecting my roots in the space industry, as it were. The space race, I could have told anyone who would have listened, was just more wasted money in the military-industrial complex, money that could have been spent on eliminating poverty, racism, and war. Rockets were a sort of immature interest to be ignored by anyone who was as cool as I was as a hippie chick in '69.

But when the usual day-late arrival of The New York Times landed on the Fisher Island ferry dock with the mail, and I saw the giant headline "MEN WALK ON MOON" and the smaller headline "A Powdery Surface is Closely Explored,"  I read all the front page articles and the inside "jumps" before I carefully re-folded the paper and delivered it to the country club where I worked. After all, during my entire growing-up, this was what everyone on the Space Coast most cared about. And I felt just the tiniest bit of snobbish pride that I knew all about what a launch entailed. I realized that I had an identity with a time and place I didn't know I wanted.

Now, over forty years later, I can see that it is rather remarkable we had met President Kennedy's goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the sixties. When he announced in 1961 the pursuit of the Next Frontier, the point was to beat the Soviets, of course. But how often these days do our leaders make a goal and we actually make it -- on time (although I won't say on budget)? And what do we have in this current national climate that everyone, even a disaffected youth, can all celebrate together?

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