Monday, August 27, 2012


Yes, I do remember what I was doing when man first walked on the moon.
As a young radio reporter I had paid my own way, and taken vacation time to cover some of the Mercury launches at Cape Canaveral, because my South Carolina station wouldn't pay for the trip. I felt I was just too close to one of the most important news stories of all time to miss them. But I sent back phone reports which were featured on our newscasts. They must have caused a good reaction, because the station did pay my way back thereafter...and I was a confirmed space America, too, was becoming. 
I covered some of the first batch of astronauts, those who definitely had "The Right Stuff". But as I moved back North, and married, it became difficult to get back to the Cape.  So, as millions did, I was looking at my old black and white TV the night Neil Armstrong first, and later Buzz Aldrin, stepped onto the lunar surface.
By then I was a TV station news director in Fort Wayne, Indiana, not that many miles from the small Ohio town where Armstrong  was born. Our station had done some home town reports on him before his epochal flight, and we planned extensive coverage of his triumphant return to Wapakoneta. We even did  a piece on the "Moon Sauce" the local bottler came up with to mark his return--green, naturally.
He looked uncomfortable to me in his open top parade convertible, even among his home town friends. He almost always looked uncomfortable in network interviews, or being praised for doing what he thought was his job--a job he loved--and when NASA decided he was too valuable to go back into space, and risk losing him in some accident, he quit and quietly taught engineering for the rest of his life.
He avoided interviews, gave no endorsements, signed very few autographs (so they couldn't be put on sale at a later time) and stayed out of the limelight as best he could.  What he did do, when he felt the space program was threatened--as it later was many times, was to use the bully pulpit of his fame to talk about mankind's "unquenchable thirst" for adventure and knowledge.  He wanted a man on Mars, not a Rover. and so do I. We need a national project such as putting a man on the Moon to rekindle this nation's historic spirit of adventure.
If you go up I-75, you'll find "Wapak" not too far south of Toledo, and visible from the interstate exit is a geodesic dome type building which houses the Neil Armstrong Space Museum. The Kurtz family often visited it, as we tried to convince our daughters they, too, could have a future in space.
Mankind has such a future. When we get there, however long it takes, it will be, in large part, because of a retiring, self-proclaimed "nerd" and one of the greatest Americans I ever met.
Thanks, Neil Armstrong, for making us so proud of you and your achievements---and proud to be Americans.

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