One Small Step

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing: “One small step for man—one giant step for mankind.” I went into my father’s box of old newspapers to see what moon-landing treasures he had saved.

We have the liftoff, which is being recreated by the Air and Space Museum with a projection on the Washington Monument of the rocket which carried the astronauts to the moon. This is a very cool use of technology.

     

Next is the photo of Buzz Aldrin, taken by Neil Armstrong, as he climbed down the steps of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.

 

And the most famous—Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon as the reflection of the American flag and Armstrong are seen in his helmet.

I recall staying up late to watch the landing. Thank goodness is was summer vacation so we did not have to get into a battle with my parents about staying up past our bedtime. That first lunar walk was scheduled to occur at 2:00 am, but they pushed it forward three hours earlier to just before 11:00 pm. Thank goodness for that.

When they returned to earth, the astronauts were quarantined for nearly a month to protect them from any “moon germs” they may have been exposed to during that historic event. Even the astronaut who remained aboard the spacecraft remained in isolation with his luckier moonwalkers.

The ship went through a fiery reentry. Check it out.

What I had forgotten about but learned while viewing those old newspapers was that the astronauts shared their big day with the Ted Kennedy scandal. The day before the moon landing, the senator from Massachusetts was involved in an accident, which left a young woman who was a passenger in his car dead and left his political career in jeopardy because he left the scene of the accident. That news put a slight damper on the excitement of the day, but not so much because I bet most of you youngins know little, if anything, about the scandal. History remembers the joy more than the Teddy event, although at the time, it was a huge distraction.

Americans needs something to get excited about again.

 

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The Skinny on Moon Day

 

“To commemorate the anniversary of the first moon walk on July 20, 1969, and to accord  recognition to the many achievements of the national space program, the Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 101, has requested that the President issue a proclamation designating July 20, 1971, as National Moon Walk Day.

Now, Therefore, I, Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate July 20, 1971, as National Moon Walk Day. I urge all Americans, and interested groups and organizations, to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs designed to show their pride in this great national achievement.”

Does anyone really know who is really responsible for the celebration of Moon Day? I am sure extensive research may result in a name or two, but our family knows the truth, and I am providing the evidence of proof that it was Aunt Ar.

Six months before the historic moonwalk, her fourth grade class was given a lesson on how to write a business letter. When instructed to write a letter to anyone of their choosing, she decided to write a letter to President Nixon, suggesting that a holiday should be created honoring the day man first sets foot on the moon.

We all know that she did get a response from the White House.

Dear Arlene,

The President has asked me to reply to your letter, concerning your suggestion (moon day). Although certain holidays are of course observed practically everywhere in our country, there are in fact no holidays legally designated as national.

Each state has jurisdiction over the holidays it will observe. Federal jurisdiction is limited to the District of Columbia and federal installations throughout the nation.

It closed, “With the President’s best wishes.”

I believe that the letter contained a card with President Nixon’s signature.  Grandpa wanted to determine if it was authentic or just a stamp. He said if it was real, it would smear if it got wet. Well, Grandpa did the test, and I think it passed the authentication test.

Did Aunt Ar save the letter and the signature? I am guessing not, but let’s wait and see what she says. Perhaps like some of Grandpa’s letters, hers will someday be stored at the National Archives.

In any case, Nixon did declare it an official day of celebration in 1971, but according to the article in the Boonton Times Bulletin newspaper, it was unofficially first celebrated on that July day in 1969. Thank you Ar!

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