Monday, July 20, 2009

Remembering the Original Moonwalk: Apollo 11 on Television

For some reason, I remembered the moon landing as happening in August, maybe because we were usually at the cottage all July. But obviously not that year! I was very young -- perhaps that's why my memories of that momentous day are snapshots rather than of one whole event.


My father rented a colour television for this big day, a day my mother had seen coming since she was a little kid in England, fantasizing about life in North America. I do believe this was the very first time I saw TV. Other people had TVs on the block, not us, but no one had a colour set. And so the whole neighbourhood came over to watch. Lots of adults, lots of kids running around. For some reason, I feel like I saw the lift off and the final touch down on earth, but I don't think my parents rented the set for more than one day. Here's the full NASA montage, looks a bit better in HD.


I remember staring at this box with its grainy colour pictures moving and jerking, being totally in awe of seeing someone live who was so far away, of all the people gathered round the small set like the whole world was holding its breath, of at last being able to see if the moon really was made of cheese. I was bug eyed, unable to stop looking at it. Suddenly the adults cheered when Neil Armstrong safely and successfully touched the moon, or at least his boot did. I wondered why he couldn't take his hand out of his glove and really feel it.


I remember looking up at the moon later and trying to absorb the fact that there were men on it. I think that was the first time I saw the moon as real, and I started to be fascinated with space. I wasn't the only one. Space, especially the moon, quickly dominated the culture, those NASA shots showing up in books and on quilts, in toys and on TV again and again. It was a time of hope and wonder, so powerful it made your chest ache. Watching these montages brings it all back to me. Watching the beautiful still photo tribute (below) to that first moonwalk brings back the feelings I had when I first saw the earth as a place hanging in space, encompassing us all, protecting us all from the blackness of the universe's vacuum.


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