The family room at our home in Arlington Heights, a Chicago suburb. I had been watching all day, of course, and my dad was probably there off and on during the day since it was a Sunday, but he didn’t have the time to sit for a whole day and watch. But I remember watching the news coverage of the landing. Walter Cronkite.
By the time the moonwalk occurred it was night. We had all of the lights off with just the glow of the television to light the room. All of my brothers and sisters were there, sprawled all over the couch and floor, but I don’t know how many of them (if any) were paying any attention or cared what was happening. Not sure about Mom either, but Dad was as fascinated as I was.
At the time it seemed to last forever. Maybe it was that way for everyone in the world, or maybe it was just because I was thirteen. In seeing replays of it now it seems to be so short, just a couple of hours that changed the world.
I remember being amazed when the TV signal came down and we could actually watch as Armstrong came down the ladder and took those first steps. I remember being able to see Armstrong’s face in his helmet in the shadows as he read the plaque on the LEM’s leg. I remember when they took the camera and moved it out a ways and we could watch as Neil and Buzz bunny hopped around, setting up experiments and taking pictures.
Long after all of my brothers and sisters were asleep I watched until the broadcast was over and the astronauts were safely back aboard the LEM.
Over the last 50 years there have been many other spectaculars that I’ve watched. Apollo 13. For Apollo 17 I got permission to stay home from school to watch the last three moonwalks, each of which were over seven hours long. The first space shuttle mission. The robot landings on Mars.
For a couple decades there I would always watch with my kids. Now we watch separately, often from opposite sides of the planet.
But we always watch.
NASA’s been given orders to get us back on the moon in five years. I hope they do it, but I wouldn’t bet on it given today’s chaotic political situation. But SpaceX or Blue Origin or Bigelow might get it done.
When they do, I’ll be watching. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. 50 years is too long to wait already.