CHRISTY AND TIFFANY,
(AUGUST 15, 2010) Long before Michael Jackson demonstrated his exotic move, Neil Armstrong did his own "Moonwalk."
Throughout my childhood I would hear about the space program. There was the Russian space ship, Sputnik, which we could see from Earth. Many families, in the late 1950s, would gather outside on their lawns on a clear night, look up at the stars together, and see who could spot the moving spaceship first. This was near the beginning of the space program that had the two world powers, the United States and the USSR, competing to send the first man to the moon.
During the early days of the space program, I remember hearing about a monkey and a dog that went into space. And then there were the "manned" space flights with the American astronauts and (Russian) cosmonauts circling the Earth in their space capsules and entering the earth's atmosphere in a fiery blaze and finally landing in the ocean (USA) or in a desert (USSR). I watched some of the rescues on black and white TV as a large helicopter hovered around the capsule bobbing around in the giant ocean.
There was also the launch of Telestar. This satellite was put into space for communications purposes and was the beginning of instant, worldwide communications as we know it. Prior to sending a signal into space and bouncing it back to earth, there was a giant cable that ran under the ocean sending messages from Europe to the US. Little could we imagine then what that one satellite would end up producing.
Telestar spawned a song in 1962 by The Tornados, and the song became the first to reach number one by a British group on the Billboard 100. The song was called, uh . . . "Telstar." If I may use a 60s term, the song was "groovy."
However, the climax of the space program came in July, 1969. People were glued to their TV sets. I wasn't. I had to listen to the landing and the commentary from CBS radio since I was working at WWHY-AM radio in Huntington, W.Va., on that summer day in 1969.
I listened while sitting in the control room, and, guess what? I cried. Bawled like a baby while sitting there alone. It was a wonderful moment of excitement for the world and, especially, the US.
That evening, while walking home, the sky was clear. There in the sky was the moon, very clearly visible. I knew that this was a historic moment and that, up there on the moon, were some human being. From the beginning of time, humans had looked at the moon, wondered about the moon, worshiped the moon, went crazy by the moon, and just about had their lives controlled by the moon, but now, for the first time, there was human life on the moon.
After that, I recall that the moon landings became almost "mundane," and it wasn't until the shuttle program that there was new interest in space. Even those launching because, somewhat, "mundane," as the people went about their lives giving little thought to the space program.
As I said. I cried that evening from sheer exhilaration. After work, I went to the frat house and spent some time there. It was important to be with other people during this awesome experience.
The next time I recall crying was when, in 1973, President Nixon decided to bring all the troops home from Vietnam. It seemed like that war had lasted all of my life and had consumed the nation in bitter conflict.
Both were joyous occasions and momentous. Both were very emotional times.