Sunday, August 26, 2012

How High The Moon

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

T. S. Eliot
Hello Frosty
I could, like many others, write an In Memoriam for Neil Armstrong, but I didn't know the man. I only knew about one amazing thing he did that changed my life and the lives of many millions of people for the better.

I could also write an In Memoriam for Mr. O' Conner. I did know him and I remember a very few things he did. But one thing in particular changed my life for the worse.

Like many young boys I became interested in the Solar System about the age of 7 or 8. I passed by the dinosaur age and went straight for the sun, the moon, the planets and their moons. This was the 40's, before the Sputnik, before any space travel at all. But by my many visits to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and the books and magazine articles I looked at I knew there would be space travel someday and I fully expected that it would happen soon.

Even before Star Wars and Star Trek I knew the Universe must be inhabited by amazing creatures. And I had the benefit of Flash Gordon films on local television to encourage me to believe that space travel was inevitable.

One rainy afternoon in 1949 I was sitting in a class room at an elementary school in Westchester County. We couldn't go outside and play during our recess because of the rain so the teacher, Mr. O' Conner, asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. When my turn came I said I wanted to be the first man on the moon. Mr. O' Conner said "That's ridiculous. Man can never go to the moon." He was the school's Science teacher. I believed him. For a while.

Years went by. The Sputnik flew. Yuri Gagarin flew. NASA was invented. The word "astronaut" entered the vocabulary. JFK became President. And the time had come. Meanwhile I became an actor.

Then, one July evening in 1969, sitting in my apartment on West 58th Street in New York City, I watched Neil Armstrong put his foot down on the surface of the moon. Farewell Mr. O' Conner, may you rest in peace.

The Apollo program took a long time to develop, and many people, designers, technicians, engineers, scientists and pilots. We shot off rockets, we put men into space, we flew instruments to the surface of the moon and dropped them down. We flew toward it, flew past, even flew around it. But it just wasn't the same until an actual human foot placed itself on the surface. That "one small step" permanently connected the human race to the rest of the Universe from then on. And when Armstrong made his first step, he did it for me.

People with the mentality of a Mr. O' Conner should not be permitted to teach. But thank heaven there are still people with the mentality of a Neil Armstrong still at the wheel. Farewell Mr. Armstrong, may you rest in peace.

Dana Bate - Vagabond Journeys
Never Give Up


Ken Riches said...

The human spirit will always find ways to accomplish the impossible.

Arlene (AJ) said...

We lived close to Neil Armstrong's Space Museum in Wapokeneta, OH and went to his museum many times to see the story of his life and wonderful accomplishments in space. It was something we did when any friends or family came to see us to go to his museum. He'll always hold a special place in our hearts.

Jon said...

A fascinating post. I wonder if Mr. O'Conner was still around when Armstrong walked on the moon. I'm sure you would have enjoyed seeing him eat his words.

I had the opportunity of visiting the Hayden Planetarium one time.