As someone in primary school when the “space race” started, Astronauts and space travel were part of the excitement of growing up.
I wasn’t aware of most of the early manned NASA missions, but I recall when some of the Apollo missions were brought to class attention by a student teacher.
I’m not sure which mission was the first we followed, but the interest was maintained until the early moon landings starting with Apollo 11.
What I remember most about that first landing, was being in a crowded Catholic Club, where a small black and white TV was surrounded by club patrons as we waited to see man land on the moon for the first time. It must have been a weekend night, and my dad’s cricket team had gathered there for post-match drinks with their families.
From memory the TV coverage wasn’t anything exciting – and I seem to recall that the actual landing was broadcast as a message of text across the screen, telling us that “Eagle has landed”. In a way it was an anticlimax. Where were the pictures?
I don’t recall when I first saw any actual footage of Armstrong and Aldrin stepping onto the moon. I have a feeling it was a long time after the event.
Over the decades my interest in the space program remained, not obsessively enough to follow everything going on, but enough to keep an eye on major developments. I was also interested enough that had the impossible happened, and I’d been given the chance to board a NASA mission, I wouldn’t have hesitated. At the time, I even believed I would have eagerly boarded a shuttle mission the day after the Challenger explosion if I’d been given the opportunity.
Now approaching 60, even the wildest dream of becoming an astronaut has long gone, and my age would be the least of the disqualifying factors.
I’ve recently been listening to a series on NASA podcasts that have included details of Astronaut selection. Apparently, for the latest recruitment intake of 12, they received 18,000 applications. Those finally selected had multiple degrees, and an incredible breadth of extreme life experience. After listening to the podcast I had to wonder how any individual could fit so much into the first decade or two of adult life.
Today marks the 49th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 8, crewed by Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders (Lovell would later go on to greater fame as the commander of the almost disastrous Apollo 13 mission).
Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave earth’s orbit, and its crew were the first men to travel to the moon and back.
Entering lunar orbit on Christmas eve, the crew each read parts of the creation account from Genesis 1.