Forty years ago on July 20 my parents and I checked into a roadside hotel somewhere in Mississippi to watch the moon landing.
There was no way we were going to miss this his event in human history.
We were on vacation, but the moon landing was on everyone’s mind. We knew the Apollo 11 patches. Gulf Oil ws giving away cardboard models of the Apollo lunar lander and space ship with fill-ups. The model was fairly detailed and I had trouble avoiding crinkling the tabs as I tried to insert them into the appropriate slots.
We were worried we wouldn’t get to our destination and checked in soon enough. We had been following the lunar landing news on the car radio during the day. It seems that we checked in late and were barely checked in before I was at the foot of the bed watching with the TV on at the time of the moon walk, which was just before 10 p.m. Central time. The reception was blurry, the picture was grainy, the TV was black and white, but it was live.
But we had seen it live. That was our goal.
The TV networks devoted so much time to the space coverage that we knew details such as how Neil Armstrong would pull a handle that would release the camera on the side of the lander that was aimed at the ladder that Neil Armstrong would descend.
We had high expectations of the TV coverage, in part from Apollo 8’s flight around the moon with the reading from Genesis during Christmas 1968. But they didn’t need the dramatics of Apollo 8. There were walking on the moon — in the same decade as the first launch of a man into space.
After Apollo 11 and other moon walks, I would look at the moon, but it looked different. It seemed more familiar — it was no longer beyond reach.