Those of us who are old enough to remember July 20, 1969 have looked at the moon somewhat differently since then. It was on that fateful Sunday evening 43 years ago that Neil Armstrong climbed down that ladder in the Sea of Tranquility and made that amazing giant leap for mankind.
Armstrong’s death last month at the age of 82 should make us pause and reflect on the importance of being first. Most of us also recognize the name Buzz Aldrin. He was the second man to climb down that ladder on July 20th. But hands up if you remember the names Pete Conrad and Alan Bean.
They were the moonwalkers of Apollo 12, in November of 1969. They sent back better TV pictures from the lunar surface than Neil and Buzz did, and they were in colour ! Alan Bean is 82, the same age as Armstrong. He became an artist after retiring from the space program and the U.S. Navy.
He is the only artist to ever incorporate dust from the moon’s surface onto a canvas. Pete Conrad was not so lucky. He died in the summer of 1999, after being hurt in a motorcycle accident.
We don’t remember much about Apollo 12, but who could forget Apollo 13, in April of 1970. Chances are that Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise would have been long forgotten by now if they had not almost become the first Americans to die in space.
The story had a miraculous happy ending, which Ron Howard captured beautifully in a terrific movie which immortalized the line “Houston, we have a problem”.
12 human beings left their Footprints on the Moon. Prairie writer Maureen Hunter used that phrase as the title of her play that won a Governor General’s award. Those footprints will outlive us all, but the explorers who made them will not.
Let us cherish their courage and celebrate that history.
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While Neil Armstrong was making history on the surface of the moon, he had a namesake who was a public figure on football fields in Canada. The football Neill ( with 2 L’s ) played and coached in both the CFL and the NFL.
On July 29th 1969, 9 days after his namesake left his footprints on the lunar surface, the other Neill coached the Edmonton Eskimos to a 33-0 shellacking of the Blue Bombers at Winnipeg Stadium. Although I can conjure up no memory of the occasion, I’m certain I was there, probably until I couldn’t stand watching any longer.
It would be 43 years before the Bombers would be shut out again in a regular season game. On Sunday September 2, 2012, the so-called Labour Day Classic they were humiliated 52-0 by the Roughriders 52-0 at Taylor Field.
I was there for that one too, and thankfully I was wearing a Rider jersey.
Roger Currie can be reached at .. firstname.lastname@example.org