NASA Courtesy photos
Buzz Aldrin salutes the flag during the July 20, 1969 moon landing ... and commemorates the 40th anniversary with an MTV rap about the experience.
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The date was July 20, 1969.
I rushed home from my job in the communications office at Michigan State University, turned on the TV and listened to Walter Cronkite talking with the “right stuff” guys.
I kept the volume low.
We had just coaxed our baby son Ryan into taking regular naps and were working to curb his night owl tendencies.
I should let sleeping babes lie, I thought. He’s 14 months old and there’s no chance he’ll remember this historic occasion.
But I couldn’t resist. And a couple of years ago, I came upon a scrap of paper on which I had written a little poem commemorating the occasion:
I woke you up
to tell you,
“Men are walking on the moon.”
You opened up your pool-blue eyes
and seemed delighted
but not surprised.
For Boomers, and our elders, it was a big surprise. While touring the space museums for this week’s “2009 Space Odyssey” feature, I thought back to my earliest memories of the space program.
When I was a little kid, we were bombarded with space race paranoia when the-then USSR beat us into orbit with the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Through my elementary-through-high school years, there was a lot of public anguish about too much art and not enough science in our public school systems. Luckily, my district already had great music and visual and performing arts teachers and programs in place, so we artistic types didn’t suffer too much while education theory was catching up to the reality: Music and visual arts programs actually enhanced cognitive skills necessary for achievement in math and science.
A little memorial at the New Mexico Museum of Space History reminded me how excited we were as tots when cute little primates became the first living beings launched into space ... and our horror when our parents had to explain that those first intrepid little critters were getting a guaranteed one-way ticket and would die out there, where no one could hear their poor little monkey screams. It would be a while before astronaut monkeys and dogs managed to make it back alive.
My son entered the planet in a more hopeful and triumphant time.
That moonwalk ushered in a whole generation of kids who would never know a time when there were not, “footsteps overhead in the clouds,” as a Hopi prophet I know once put it.
And maybe those early footsteps registered subconsciously, too, as a kind of symbol of watershed changes.
The first images shown on MTV were a montage of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the logo most of us still most associate with MTV is a slightly altered version of the iconic shot of Buzz Aldrin saluting an American Flag during that first landing. (While they were staking their video territory on Aug. 1, 1981, an MTV flag was superimposed on the scene.)
According to various Web sites I consulted, over a billion people were watching as astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar landing module Eagle and spoke those now famous, if someone stilted, words: “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
That was great, but I remember longing for something a bit more expressive and wishing we’d sent some poets and musicians up there, along with the original intrepid trio of Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins.
As it turns out, maybe we did. Aldrin, the second man on the moon, has released “Rocket Experience,” recorded with Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli and back-up singers, and featuring space scenes and rappin’ rocket man Aldrin.
For a good time, check it out at http://newsroom.mtv.com/2009/06/23/buzz-aldrin-teams-with-snoop-dogg-for-rocket-experience/
In a summer filled with sad video clips of Michael Jack’s moonwalk moves, it’s transcendently inspirational to see one of the veterans of the original moonwalk still walking — let along rockin’ and rappin’ — at age 79.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at email@example.com