Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Learning | Mankind's Giant Leap

I've mentioned before, that my father was an aerospace engineer who worked for the Apollo program (among others.) When I first started school, I would tell classmates that my dad was an engineer, and many  of them assumed he rode on a train all day. So I tried to explain that he designed spaceships. Then I would get questions about whether he wore magnetic boots, so he could climb up the side of a rocket to build the top. I relayed that query to my father. After he stopped laughing, he said,"No."

(Actually, I think he did not ever climb on things at work. He probably did a lot of math. I grew up drawing on the back of pages and pages of logarithms.)

Dad faced a formidable critic in his mother-in-law, my Grandma Nell.  She warned him that mankind should not be traveling in space--if they tried to send men to the moon, the spaceship might bump into an angel!

I think of my grandmother when I watch the servants in shows like Downton Abbey--especially Daisy, the cook's helper.  Nell was born in an industrial city in Scotland, at a time when many children were expected to work, instead of going to school. Nell was not fortunate enough to have educational opportunities beyond the fourth grade.  Her first job was polishing silver at a department store. (Like Daisy, she was also an excellent cook, by the way.)

She happened to be visiting us at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, when the entire country was mesmerized by the telecasts of man walking on the moon. We all gathered around our black and white TV in the den. Did I mention that she was hearing impaired? Apparently, she did not hear that there were two astronauts exploring the moon in their spacesuits.  

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin deploying the U.S. Flag. From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's photostream on Some rights reserved.

Which would explain why we suddenly heard her shriek loudly that there was AN ALIEN coming up behind Neal Armstrong!  Of course, the rest of us quickly assured her that it was another astronaut, Buzz Aldrin.  The incident seems funnier now, but at the time, she was so sincerely upset, that we didn't dare laugh about it.

The first moon landing caused a sense of wonder in most of us; I remember going out in my front yard that night, looking up at the moon, and thinking, there  are humans up there! My grandmother's moment of panic also caused me to think about how much life had changed since 1901, when she was born. My generation took so many things for granted: radio, automobiles, air travel, television, refrigerators, tv dinners, and too many appliances to mention.

Plaque from First Flight Lunar Project: "You are never too young to dream." From Jack Pearce's photostream on Some rights reserved. This plaque commemorates the site in Warren, OH, where a six-year-old Neal Armstrong took his first ride on an airplane. There is a replica of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module at this site. For more information, visit

1 comment:

  1. That was a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing your family stories with us Lori.