Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A bittersweet anniversary

Forty years ago today we Americans heard over our radios and T.V.'s 'The Eagle Has Landed!'. It was an incredible moment in an incredible time of our history. Walter Cronkite, who died this last week, along with David Brinkley and Chet Huntley were the news anchors for what passed for T.V. channels in those days. In under eight years, America had put together NASA, built the Saturn 5 rockets and had gone to the moon.

I remember that day, even though I was only nine. My family was in a campground in Oregon on a summer trip. We had a 15 foot camptrailer, one of the old fashioned kind with a real ice box that you kept cool by buying blocks of ice. The interior lights were gas with a mantle that shone brightly when lit. But there was no electricity in the trailer and no T.V. along, no CD's, no DVD's. When it was time for the landing, I remember my dad and I were down by the restrooms which had a couple of electrical outlets on each side. A number of guys had gathered, and there was a small, electric black and white T.V. The men convinced a guy who was shaving with an electric razor to defer shaving and plug in the T.V. instead. There was a window that opened towards the outside with a shelf even with the window. The T.V. was placed on that shelf, facing out of the restroom and a crowd gathered outside of that bathroom. And that's where I watched the Eagle land on the moon.

America seemed so full of promise that day. Sure, there was an unpopular war going on in Vietnam. But we Americans had done something that no other nation, no other humans, had ever done. We had gone into outer space, to the moon, and had landed. The lunar missions were closely followed. There were products being marketed that were exactly like the astronaughts. Remember Tang? I think that's still being made. How about space stix, or space food bars? They came wrapped individually in a box, in several flavors like chocalate and peanut butter. They were an early version of an energy bar that the astronaughts used.

Remember '2001, A Space Odyssey'? That film came out towards the end of the lunar missions and yet, it seemed plausible---at least the space ship did. Look at how far we had come, how much we had done, in such a short time! We were going to switch over and build the shuttle, put a station in orbit and go back to the moon to stay.

Twenty eight years after the first shuttle flight, we still haven't been back to the moon. We have a tiny 'international' space station that we have to keep rescuing because of breakdowns in the equipment. Rescue is getting to be more and more iffy, as we've already lost two shuttles along with their entire crews. We don't have a replacement for the shuttle, that will be years away. What we once could do in eight years, we now can't seem to do in twenty-eight.

Strange how other things change. Remember the news anchors, along with most of mission control in Houston smoking while being filmed? Anybody doing that today would be out of a job and crucified by the media. So much for personal freedom. Remember those hippies and radicals, railing against 'the Establishment and the Man'? At the house of one of those radicals, many years later, a Presidential campaign was begun. And that campaign, and the administration are following the play book written for a takeover of the Establishment. Quite frankly, I think I liked the old 'establishment' better than the new 'socialist' regime!

Remember the 'back to the land' movement and the homesteading movement that started about that time? Now we have an 'Animal I.D.' act that requires every animal on a working farm to have a paid for I.D.---which is putting quite a financial burden on many little farms. The big corporate farms, those with money and influence, only have to have one I.D. for all of their livestock.

Remember all of the things that used to be made here in America? We invented and built pretty much everything that went into the lunar missions. Now, it seems like we exist in a sea of products from just about everywhere but America.

And so, it's a bittersweet anniversary for me. I can look back at what was, and what could have been. I can see what might yet be, if enough Americans wake up to the trouble this country is in. But they had better wake up fast, as time is running out to restore this republic to what it was designed to be. I hope, I truly do, that I will live to see the day when we will hear, from an orbitor around a red planet named Mars, that an American spacecraft has once again landed. And that I will see the flag of the greatest republic on Earth planted on that dusty red world. It never hurts to dream...

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