The anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing was celebrated this month. Of course, there have been many of these anniversaries over the years, this year it just happens to be the 50th. 2019 is particularly significant for me as well. I was born on July 9, 1969, just 11 days before Neil and Buzz stepped onto the surface of the Moon. So I am 50 too – I’m “Pre-Moon”.
That notable event of 50 years ago went unremarked by me at the time, of course, (and possibly by my parents as well — particularly my mother — she had just gone through a launch of her own that to me, makes the astronauts’ discomfort seem like a walk in the park) however I have a dim recollection of seeing astronauts return in the splashdown method live on my parents’ black and white TV when I was very young. This would have been a later mission — the splashdown for Apollo 17 was December 19, 1972 — I was 3 ½, or it might have been one of the Skylab missions — anyone remember those? There were three — the final returning to Earth on February 8, 1974 — I was 4 ½ — maybe that’s what I remember (I also remember seeing Gerald Ford sworn in as president on TV and that was August 9, 1974 — I had just turned 5 — so it was probably Skylab.)
Of course, what I remember the most growing up were the glorious Space Shuttle missions. Even Enterprise’s free flight tests in the beginning (that was in 1977) were cool. My parents had a color TV by the time Columbia’s missions — in 1981 — were launched, and later on, after Hutchinson expanded the space center at the Kansas Cosmosphere and started showing those amazing documentaries on that huge IMAX dome theater, my excitement and wonder of Space was fully in bloom.
On a sadder note, I do remember where I was on January 28, 1986, when the Shuttle Challenger broke apart right after launch. I was in the lunchroom at McPherson Senior High School, and later that day, glued to the TV. Thankfully, the missions continued and by the time the Space Shuttle program came to a close in July of 2011, 135 missions had been flown. Wow, 135. I did not see all of them on TV, did you?
Although the history of the Space program predates me — officially in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik and arguably stretching back to the 1930s and 1940s with the development of rocket technology, I like to think that Space Exploration is marked by my lifetime. If I live to be 100 years and 11 days — on July 20, 2069 — I can help celebrate another of those many anniversaries, and look back on another 50 years of even more amazing, unimaginable feats by humans in Space.</p>