One small step

WHERE were you when man walked on the moon? Many of us will be asking that question with the death last week of astronaut, Neil Armstrong, the man millions of us watched as he stepped down off the lunar module of the Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.

He set foot on the moon, and stepped into the history of mankind and the imagination of everyone who saw it.

As the moon dust rose around his feet Armstrong said: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Those words will endure until all of us alive today are dust ourselves.

It’s sad to reflect that our heroes fall to the slow, steady march of time.

Some have commented how Armstrong’s passing is the end of an era, where hope and opportunity reached beyond the moon to the endless possibility provided by that vast endless expanse of that final frontier, space.

It’s an understandable argument.

Who do we look up to now, who gives us reason to dream?

It’s a pessimistic view, and thankfully, disputed by the man himself. He didn’t have moon missions to inspire him. He had other heroes.

“As a boy, because I was born and raised in Ohio, about 60 miles north of Dayton, the legends of the Wrights have been in my memories as long as I can remember,” he once said.

Not too surprisingly perhaps a biographer, James Hansen, said Armstrong saw himself more as a “pilot” than an “astronaut”.

His dream was to fly.

And look at how high that dream took him.

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

And what a legacy that “very, very small” man left behind.

“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.”

Remember that the next time you go outside on a dark night and look up to see the moon.

As his family has asked, give Neil a wink and say thanks.

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