“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.”
John F. Kennedy
September 12, 1962
Ever heard of Wapakoneta, Ohio?
It happens to be where screenwriter Dudley Nichols was born. He wrote over 70 screenplays including Bringing Up Baby which is a classic Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant film. He also served as the Screen Guild President in 1937-38.
His first film credit was in 1930 which just happens to be the same year that another fellow was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio who would go on to eclipse Nicholas’ fame.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, a small town just 59 miles north of where the Wright Brothers designed the first airplane (that would fly) in Dayton, Ohio around the turn of the 20th Century century.
If an Eagle Scout from a small town in Ohio becoming the first person to walk on the moon isn’t inspiration for you to pursue your dreams from wherever you live, then nothing I write can help.
I was eight years old when Armstrong uttered those famous words as he walked on the moon, “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” Big moment. One of the greatest achievements in modern history. If it was symbolic as some have said, then it was symbolism at its finest.
I have the original New York Times front page–MEN WALK ON MOON– hanging on my office at work (along with the Sebiscuit movie poster and Don McLean album I’ve mentioned in the past).
Along with wanting to be a fireman and a professional baseball player I added astronaut to things I wanted to be when I grew-up. Growing up in Central Florida in the 60s was a fascinating place to be for the single reason that it in an age before cable TV, Disney World, and video games (heck, pong wasn’t even invented until 1971) you could watch a lift off on TV and then run outside and see this small glow rising into the sky on its way to space.
Today is the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon. And while I remember sitting around the TV watching the event on a fuzzy screen it is the years leading up to it that I remember more. It was a feat that many thought could not be done. And there was plenty of evidence that it was not going to be an easy effort. At one point it is estimated that 400,000 people were working on President Kennedy’s dream to put a man on the moon by the end of the 60s.
It was an endeavor where there would be years of failure and the loss of lives.
Beyond making history the events remembered today are textbook storytelling that has a clear goal at the start, full of interesting characters, plenty of conflict and a fully developed and satisfactory ending. I’m not sure anyone born from 1969 on didn’t grow up thinking that technology could do just about anything. But that wasn’t always the case.
The space program as a whole has resulted in many great books, movies, and television programs on the subject. One of the best is Apollo 13 which was based on a book Lost Moon; The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by astronaut James Lovell and Jeffery Kluger. Kluger wrote the recent Time magazine article on the historic event and touched on one of my favorite themes; what happens after you’ve been to the top of the mountain. Once you have the t-shirt that says, “Walking on the moon –been there done that” then what?
Kluger remembers Lovell’s warning when their book was a best seller and Apollo 13 was in theaters; “Remember where you’re standing when the spotlight goes off, you’ll have to find your own way off the stage.”
That’s wise advice for anyone.