Monday, December 24, 2007

Thirty-nine Years Ago Tonight

Wow. How time flies. It was 39 years ago this evening that the picture with this post was taken. The crew of the Apollo 8 mission became the first human beings to orbit the moon. It was one hell of an historic night.

I was a senior in high school on December 24, 1968. The temperature was twenty-something degrees below zero in Rice Lake, Wisconsin as I stood in the yard of our farm in the early evening and pointed my binoculars and my spotting scope at the moon. I was hoping against hope that I could somehow see that microscopic spaceship from 240,000 miles away. I think I overestimated the power of my equipment just a smidge.

Those were really heady times in America. President Kennedy had stated seven years earlier that he wanted a man on the moon by the end of the decade and considerable progress was being made fulfilling Kennedy's goal. Just 6 1/2 months from tonight, on July 4, 1969, I stood in almost the same place in our yard and tried to see the space craft again, this time as Neil Armstrong stumbled around on the lunar surface. I was quite a dreamer.

Every year on Christmas Eve I look at the moon as I just did a minute ago, and remember back over what is now more than 2/3 of my life ago to that frigid night in a much less complex time in our history. I stood there overwhelmed with awe as I contemplated what science could do and how it was being played out in front of me and the rest of the world on a frigid night in the north woods of Wisconsin.

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