Thursday, July 20, 2006

Walking on the moon today

Today is the anniversary of the first human steps on the moon on July 20, 1969. I am old enough to remember getting up in the wee hours to watch the news coverage of this historic event (as a child visiting my uncle in California). We were groggy and amazed. On one of my favorite web sites, “Today’s Document from the National Archives” [] you can view the original flight plan for this Apollo 11 mission. And you can re-experience this event through J. Patrick Lewis’ poem, “First Men On The Moon” from his collection A BURST OF FIRSTS (Dial, 2001).

First Men On The Moon

“The Eagle has landed!”
Apollo 11 Commander Neil A. Armstrong

“A magnificent desolation!”
Air Force Colonel Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.

July 20,1969

That afternoon in mid-July,
Two pilgrims watched from distant space
The Moon ballooning in the sky.
They rose to meet it face-to-face.

Their spidery spaceship Eagle dropped
Down gently on the lunar sand.
And when the module’s engines stopped,
Cold silence fell across the land.

The first man down the ladder, Neil,
Spoke words that we remember now—
“Small step for man…” It made us feel
As if we too were there somehow.

Then Neil planted the flag and Buzz
Collected lunar rocks and dust.
They hopped liked kangaroos because
Of gravity. Or wanderlust.

A quarter million miles away,
One small blue planet watched in awe.
And no one who was there that day
Will soon forget the Moon they saw.

By J. Patrick Lewis

Even with all the technological innovations that have occurred since 1969, it is pretty amazing to look at the night sky and imagine two men walking around on that shining, white orb. So many poems have been written about the moon—step outside tonight, look up at the moon, and see what happens.

[Moon image from: National Optical Astronomy Observatory/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy/National Science Foundation]

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