Guest Article by Duane K. Rossmann, “How Apollo 11 bridged generations”

Guest Article by Duane K. Rossmann, “How Apollo 11 bridged generations”

Image: At the moment when Neil Armstrong stepped off of the Lunar Module onto the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969, he uttered the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong decided upon the phrase about three months earlier while playing a game of Risk with his brother in Cape Code.

Duane K. Rossmann, Guest Writer to The Golden Hammer

Everyone has moments where they remember vivid details of a milestone event in their lives and, for me, one of those is the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969.

A worldwide audience of six hundred million people watched the live TV broadcast as Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the Eagle landing module and spoke those famous words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” and then stepped on to the Moon!  The rocket blasted off three days earlier from the Kennedy Space Center and inside the capsule were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins–all Texas residents.

Sixteen percent of the world’s population tuned in to watch this historic event and I was one of them sitting in my grandfather’s living room in Walnut, Iowa.  We are glued to the screen of a 16 inch TV as a signal beams from the Moon to Earth, broadcast to the TV station in Omaha which transmits it through the airwaves to our TV’s antenna.  Grainy black and white images of the Moon’s surface appear and we hear the astronauts’ voices communicating with Mission Control in Houston.  Walter Cronkite, “America’s Most Respected Journalist” delivers a running commentary of man’s first attempt to land and walk on the Moon. We hang on his every word as the Moonwalk unfolds.

I’m watching with my 89 year old grandfather. When he came of age in the 1890s, a horse was his primary means of transportation.  Now he is viewing a man walk on the Moon!  I can’t comprehend the vast technology changes he has witnessed in his life.  That night, my seventeen year old self wonders what technology changes will occur in my lifetime?

Also present to watch this historic event is my father, a member of the “‘Greatest Generation.”  His contemporaries are the astronauts crammed into the space capsule hurtling to and from our Moon.  His generation suffered the Great Depression, answered the call to defeat fascism in the world, and returned home to create the baby boomer generation of which I am a proud member.  Growing up around this generation, it is no surprise that these brave astronauts volunteered to tackle the most technologically difficult project in the history of mankind and succeeded.

Fifty years have now passed since that milestone in human history.  My grandfather and father have passed away, but the details of that evening remain vivid in my memory.  The three generations gathered in that room spanned technology advancements from horse transportation to space flight and to now where computers are integrated into almost everything we use.  Cell phones, ATMs, email, The Woodlands–these are a few of the things that did not exist on that humid summer night when I watched two men walk on the Moon and plant the American Flag.

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