I remember the Apollo 12 moon shot distinctly – I was in second grade, and had been taught only a year before that “Americans would go to the moon in our lifetime.”
While that prediction seemed marvelous and unlikely given the fact humans were just then successfully leaving the earth’s gravity field and returning in a reliable manner, only a few months – not years – later, there we were, “walking” in space, un-docking and re-docking giant spacecraft, and to beat all, it was ON TV.
Do understand that the images coming in via satellite were in no way high definition … I recall being among three other classes of second graders all packed into Mrs. Cox’s room, craning my neck and attempting to discern what was happening on the greyscale screen. It was much like trying to make out the form of a baby in an early ultrasound image – lots of “noise” overlaid any pictures that were making it to that grainy black and white wonder – contrast was minimal, the transmission was spotty and the audio was no better.
Nonetheless, we knew that a miracle was occurring in space, and the moon suddenly seemed much closer than it had before. Even though we were in the midst of the Viet Nam war and this horrific topic shared the news along with protesters and the social upheaval that came with the “Summer of Love,” the fact that we had made this monumental achievement gave us kids a sense of national pride (however temporary), not to mention sheer wonderment and fascination with anything related to space travel.
Since the concept of space travel had previously been confined to fiction – written stories, in films and more recently in TV series like Lost in Space and Star Trek – the fact that men left our planet, hung out around the moon for a few days after only needing 36 hours to get there (about the same time needed to travel across the US by Greyhound bus), and came back to tell the tale made almost anything seem possible. At the time, I think this must have provided inspiration in the purest form to the dreamers and idealists who create the fiction that becomes reality – maybe even only a year after conceptualizing in the first place.
I feel rather lucky to have grown up at the dawn of the technology era, and believe the Apollo missions marked the beginning of that time.