It was 40 years ago today that man first set foot on the moon and I remember it so clearly, even for my young age at the time.
My dad had been following the news reports on a small TV in the bedroom. Being 5, I had no interest in watching 'the news' and my sister, age 3, even less.
But just before Apollo 11 landed, my dad called us all into the bedroom and I remember distinctly him telling us to pay attention because this was something really, really important. He also said, "This is something you'll remember for the rest of your life - it's something you'll tell your grandchildren about ... that you got to see people take their first steps on the moon."
I'm sure he said other fatherly stuff at the time, expounding upon the significance of the event as we watched the module land and waited while Neil Armstrong climbed down the steps and actually took that step, but I was 5 and probably wasn't paying too much attention to him.
But I did pay attention to what was on the small black and white television set. And Dad was right. Forty years later, I do remember the historic event and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
As I think back now, I wonder if witnessing man's first steps off world had more of an impact than I realized at the time. Throughout high school, I wanted to be a physicist. My plan was to work on the space program since my vision wasn't good enough to be an astronaut (though my hatred of calculus quickly resulted in a change of direction in college). And my reading preferences have always been for science fiction/fantasy. Even today, I follow such websites as SpaceWeather.com and the Hubble Telescope, and never miss an opportunity to learn about the latest discoveries in space.
I'm certain I'm not the only one influenced in such a way.
And now, looking back on the last 40 years, I wonder why it is we haven't done more exploration. We've made plenty of trips into space, but they've all been near Earth orbit, with the shuttles and the space station. We've sent out probes and telescopes, but that's about it.
Have we lost our interest in "what lies beyond"? Are we no longer curious about 'boldly going where no man has gone before'? Or do, perhaps, the alien conspiracy theories have some measure of truth - that we have been limited by 'others' to exploring in person only our immediate area of our solar system? Perhaps it's just that we're too busy living our daily lives and dealing with our own issues that we just don't have the time - or the money - to pursue something that doesn't seem to have a direct impact. Maybe, too, we've been so conditioned by that television set that we no longer have the capacity to maintain an interest in something that requires years of attention, rather than having all problems solved in the 30 minutes of a sitcom or the two hours of a movie....
Whatever the reason, it makes me sad that we've not done more when it comes to space exploration but grateful that I've lived in a time where I did get to see that 'one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.'