Forty-three years ago, on July 20, 1969, moving down the ladder of the Apollo 11 lander, the first human to ever set foot on an extraterrestrial body spoke to 500 million television viewers and the universe at large: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” And with those now infamous words, a footprint, and a flag, suddenly the great abyss of space became a little more familiar, and the distances between us and the stars a little closer.
Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, passed away a few days ago at the age of 82. I was definitely not alive yet when Apollo 11 won the space race and made human-kind history, but that doesn’t mean I was any less saddened to hear of Niel’s passing. Seeing as I write a blog about internet spaceships, and, RP-nerds or not, we’re all playing at being spacemen, I thought a moment of appreciation for the original rocket man himself was in order.
Neil became a worldwide hero, not just for being the first man on the moon, but for being the face of humanity reaching the heavens. Hell, Russia had put the first object on the moon a decade earlier by crashing a satellite onto the surface in 1959 (a feat I’m still no less than awed by). But Apollo 11 put humans, alive and safely, on the surface, and from then on, we knew that we could reach out and touch that huge white thing in the night sky.
I’m also in awe of the level of tenacity, and for lack of a better phrasing, the giant steel testicles it took for 3 men (lest we forget Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) to sit in a tinfoil box the size of a Volvo strapped to 6,000 lbs of highly volatile flammable propellant and launch themselves almost 240 THOUSAND miles across an oxygen-less, freezing cold abyss to crash land on an alien rock with pretty much the worst most inhospitable living conditions known to man. Re-read that and realize that nothing you do in this life will ever come close to being as insanely bad-ass as that. I also read somewhere recently that your iphone or android has something like 10x the level of technology inside of it than all the Apollo moon missions combined.
So again, as a writer for a community of spacemen with our minds firmly ensconced in the worlds of science fiction and the idea of traveling into space someday, I feel it my place to say thank you to Neil: thank you for putting our heads in the clouds and our eyes on the stars.
Rest in peace Mr. Armstrong.