Over the course of my life there have been a few of those truly historic moments when you never forget where you were when you first heard of them. Mostly they were about death and disater. The JFK assassination; The death of Princess Diana; 9/11.
The first Moon landing was different. That was about mankind’s constant voyage of discovery. In September 1962 President Kennedy said in Houston, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
NASA took up the challenge and on 20th July,1969 Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on its surface. There were two wonders that night. The first, obviously was that the landing had ocurred. The second was that back in the comfort of our living rooms, wherever we were on this planet, we could watch it happen, and listen to Armstrong’s famous “One small step ” live.
And watch it we did in our millions. I remember going to work the following morning and all of London seemed bleary eyed. Everyone had stayed up into the small hours to see history being made.
Neil Armstrong, together with his colleagues on that epic voyage, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins inspired a generation. It seems strangely unreal to think that these true superheroes are merely mortal like the rest of us. But then while they may be mortal, they are not like the rest of us for who among us would volunteer to be strapped into a tiny cabin sitting on top of a rocket containing 960,000 gallons of fuel and then having been propelled into space journey down to the Moon’s surface in a rickety contraption that looked like a bad scool project?
Today the word hero is much overused but Neil Armstrong was most definitely one of the finest.