Most people my age can remember where they were and what they were doing on days of tragedy... Kennedy's assassination, Elvis's death (okay, so maybe it was just my sister Joan and me), the Challenger explosion, 911... among others.
But among the sadness there was one amazing, sparkling, golden moment when one was proud to be an American and the world held its' collective breath. That was the moment Neil and Buzz landed on the moon (and Michael Collins was orbiting it). I've heard estimates that 1/5th of the world's population watched the live telecast.
I remember the days the spacecraft headed for the moon and the excitement leading up to those words "the Eagle has landed". Later those words, "One small step for "a" man, one giant leap for mankind".
Armstrong swears he put in the "a" and people didn't hear it correctly. As a fellow Midwesterner, I believe him. We don't say "AAAAA", we say "uuuhhhhh" so some would hear the "for uhhh man" and miss it, especially East coast type people.
Not to mention any names.... certain people from New England who like to tease us about our cornfields and soybeans. But I digress...
Like so many in my generation, I was fascinated with space travel and with NASA. I wanted to be an astronaut, which is hard to believe today since I'm claustrophobic and hate to fly. But it wasn't about the flying... it was the magic of it all.
All that science, and math, and engineering... slide rules and pencils in pocket protectors... computers that took up an entire chilled room.
I've always had a thing for engineers. Even if they are weird. I married one, I have lots of friends who are engineers, and my son is minoring in engineering... believe me. They are a peculiar people.
Sometimes we talk about the "good old days" and they probably were not quite as fun and interesting as we remember. But not the space race... it was everything and more. It defined a generation which was full of hope for the future, a passion for science, and national pride to "beat the Russians" in the race for space.
We could use a lot more of that today.
I still am and always will be... proud of everyone who works for, in, with... and around... NASA.