Sad news reached us today of the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon. Mr. Armstrong’s death makes it feel like the Apollo space program has been shunted even further back into history and 1969 seems ever longer ago (which, of course, it always is but you know what I mean). There seems to be an increasing number of people who no longer believe that humans have ever really reached our nearest space neighbour as the ‘Moon landings conspiracy’ gathers speed year by year: whilst I’m as open as the next freak to many a possible conspiracy in this strange world, I, for one, firmly believe that old Neil and Buzz did successfully make that journey, to be followed by further missions up until NASA called it a day after Apollo 17. I’ve read some of the conspiracy stuff, of course, but I don’t think much of it really makes a lot of sense, whereas, for the US to put a fellow on the Moon made a lot of sense at the height of the Cold War. It’s probably arguable that we didn’t learn a fantastic amount that we couldn’t have done by using unmanned probes but I’d have to leave that one to the experts. No, the main point was, at least that summer of 1969, to put a man on the Moon.
I have very vivid memories, as a wide eyed (shortsighted) eight year old, of watching those very hazy pictures beamed down to us from the Sea of Tranquility. It all seemed so incredible and of true significance in terms of human endeavour. Even as a young child, I somehow sensed that life would never be quite the same again and, for good or ill, I’d argue that it hasn’t been. It does seem a terrible shame that our taste for space adventure seems to have lessened considerably since those heady times but, with the massive economic and social problems that the world has faced in the intervening years, one can understand how space exploration has slipped down the ladder of priority somewhat. However, at some stage, mankind will quite probably have to get out there again and we can only hope that it will be for the benefit of us all that the next Neil Armstrong takes off for the stars. I salute you, sir.