Coming up in just a few weeks, we'll be looking back on what was the pinnacle of the United States. July 20, 1969.
I remember it. Or so I'm told. In July of 1969, I was about to turn 3. I have just enough shadowy memories of the event that other member of the family have confirmed that I actually do remember. I recall it being at night. We were all in the dining room in our house in Saugus. I was sitting on Grandpa's lap watching the TV. All bits and pieces that occurred on that seminal evening.
I have long had a theory that the United States reached it's pinnacle the moment Neil Armstrong set foot on that lunar surface. It seems to these jaded eyes that ever since then, it's been downhill and increasing division. Oh, we had our moments. 9-11 could have been a unifying moment like Pearl Harbor was to another generation, but by then we were too balkanized for that sort of national unity.
I was struck recently by the news that the original Mission Control room has been restored to all its 1960s glory and has been opened as a museum.
Oh, I know the technology is obsolete. I know we stopped using this facility as more modern computers and video became available. But it still somehow strikes me as completely backward.
Opening Mission Control as a fully-restored museum really highlights for me how much we've lost our way. Sure it was in the context of the Cold War, but if anyone, even President Trump uttered the same words Kennedy did, would America respond in kind?
We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon...We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
America just doesn't do "hard" things anymore. Hell, we can't even unite ourselves in the wake of an act of war and do what is necessary.
While I will no doubt be watching a few lunar specials at the appropriate time, it will be with a certain sense of melancholy. My great-uncle worked at Draper Labs and built some accelerometers that are still up there in the LeM. Before that, he fought in WWII and built home and family in a postwar world - laying the groundwork for the society that was able to unite and reach for those stars.
It's a past that is gone - and a future that increasingly looks like it will never happen again, except by another nation with more resolve and unity than ours.
We truly have made ourselves great again, haven't we?