Friday, July 17, 2009

To the Moon

Forty years ago, when I was six years old, I saw a few TV snippets of
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's first steps on the surface of the
Moon. I've seen those same snippets many times since then. Last night,
though, I saw, for the first time, a documentary that included
extended footage of Armstrong and Aldrin's two and a half hours of
extravehicular activity (moon walking and driving) and of their
journey to the Moon and back to Earth. I was moved by Armstrong's,
Aldrin's, and Collin's intelligence, courage, sense of humor,
professionalism, and - how shall I put it? - spiritual joy,
enthusiasm, and excitement at the adventure they were living. Their
right stuff, to use Tom Wolfe's phrase, was infused with humility,
wonderment, and a sense of awe. There was very little Wolfian macho
bravado about it. At one point, for instance, Armstrong and Aldrin
bounced and tripped and danced on the Moon, tickled pink with
excitement. Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of the documentary,
so I don't know the title. But it was more gripping stuff by far than
Ron Howard's Apollo 13. I've never understood how anyone could argue
that manned space exploration is a waste of money - money that would
be better spent on humanitarian projects or education or somesuch. I
can think of many ways money is wasted (the principal of which is
war), but sending people "where no man has gone before" is surely a
worthy enterprise.