I think we’re going to the Moon because it’s the nature of man to face challenges.
The story goes that one day in Warren, Ohio during the summer of 1938 a woman named Mrs Gorsky told her husband that he would have sex with her when the eight year old kid next door walked on the Moon.
Thirty-one years later that boy found himself a long way from home. He wished Mr Gorsky good luck. The boy was 384,400km from Warren, Ohio— the kid next door was walking on the Moon.
There are footprints on the Moon, and that is incredible. We should never forget that.
Only twelve men in the entire history of the human race have ever walked on the Moon. It is sad and strange that of those twelve most people have only ever heard of two— the first two. Armstrong, Aldrin… who cares? Most people can probably name Kardashians than Apollo astronauts. I’ve only heard of the eighth man on the Moon, and that’s because his name is James Irwin. On August 8th 1991 he became the first Moon walker to die, succumbing to a heart attack at the age of 61.
There’s something odd about our attitude towards those twelve men. It amazes me that we can be so blasé about so rare and amazing an achievement. They defied what was deemed impossible and went for a walk on a spinning grey rock in the vast expanse of our limitless universe. We should remember them.
Until last week only three of those men had died. Neil Armstrong became the fourth on August 25th 2012. He passed away aged 82, as a result of complications arising from cardiovascular surgery.
Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5th 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio.
In 1947 he became only the second member of his family to attend university, graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University in 1955. His four years of study were interrupted by a compulsory three year spell in the US Navy.
Armstrong began his Navy flight training on January 26th 1949, and within two years was a fully qualified pilot. He would go on to spend two years as a reconnaissance pilot for the US Navy in the Korean War. It was largely due to this that Armstrong was recommended for the 1952 Man in Space Soonest program— the sole objective of which was to put a man on the Moon before the Russians.
Armstrong was recruited to NASA in September 1962, and was part of the Gemini 8 and Gemini 11 missions. He was made backup commander for the Apollo 8 flight, and was made full commander of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It was on this mission that he would achieve the historical feat of becoming the first man in history to set foot on a celestial body.
The story about Mr and Mrs Gorsky has been debunked as a myth, but it doesn’t really matter. The fact remains that an eight year old boy from Ohio did grow up to walk on the surface of the Moon. He may not have been the last man to walk on the Moon, but Neil Armstrong will always be the first. He will always be the one who made those small steps, who made that giant leap. His footprints are on the Moon and they always will be. We should never forget that because it is very, very important…
Shortly after his death the Armstrong family released a statement: For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.
Do that, but don’t just do that… do more than that… Look at the Moon, look how it sits amongst the stars hundreds of thousands of miles beyond the outer atmosphere of the Earth. Just look how far away… how out of reach it is… and think about how on July 20th 1969 in a vessel containing less technology than your mobile phone three human beings reached that little spinning rock, got out, and went for a stroll.
There is a reason why this is important. It is because it reminds us of something we tend to forget… at a time when musicians are being imprisoned for exercising free speech, when people are risking death for freedom and oppressive governments are killing innocent civilians… a time when there are thirty-three on-going wars involving nations from every corner of the globe… those footprints remind us.
They remind us that humanity, when it wants to be, can utterly, fantastically, wonderfully brilliant… we can achieve the incredible and defy the impossible. They are not just footprints to admire and inspire, they are footprints to aspire to and footprints to follow.
In 1969 a human being put footprints on the moon. That is incredible, and we should never forget it.