I remember the event, but I don’t think it had much impact on me, then or now. I was a camp counselor, and we had the campers watch it on a small TV, the director being aware of the significance of the event. I was more concerned with a girlfriend who was a counselor an hour up the road, planning a surprise visit on my day off. I vaguely remember having heard there was a music festival coming up in New York, but was so sure I would not be given permission to go to it that I gave it little thought. Also, I was concerned with developing and maintaining coolness in general, making sure that my sneakers, my hair, my choice of music illustrated that I was much more with it than other 16 y/o’s, more like a college student really.
Nor have I ever gotten that excited about it. Just a few years later another girlfriend suggested it was all a hoax, the first time I had considered such a shocking thing. Yet even then it was a matter for shrugging. Either way, so what? I had a brief later interest when Alan Shepard from NH went to the moon and hit a golf ball, but I don’t even remember which mission that was or what year. The idea of using the moon to accomplish something, whether research or mining or manufacture, always caught my attention a bit more.
I can understand admiring the technical difficulty, the whole desire to do something just to prove it can be done (and that you are the one who can do it). Because we can. Because it’s there. To be the first. The joy of accomplishing something difficult. I can picture myself enjoying being part of such an endeavor. Yet observing it in others? Mild congratulations. Yngwie Malmsteen is probably the fastest lead guitarist and does what others cannot quite manage, but I don’t think he’s often very good. I don’t see the point. If you are a heavy metal guy, speed is often part of the allure. Technical precision does have value, but it’s not everything.
I might feel the same way about pure mathematics if it didn’t have a centuries-long record of turning out to be eventually useful. I loved playing with numbers and algebra well into college and recall the joy of discovering a hidden property of a series or algebraic relationship.* But it’s only mildly interesting to me to watch someone else have that experience. I suppose watching my children learn things is an exception to that. But in celebrating great math, I am celebrating its potential usefulness. Mere beauty and elegance can be found in many other places.
So. Moon. Fine. I’m still not convinced it’s been a great leap for mankind, other than its derivative effects of making computers smaller and so forth. One criticism of going to the moon has not panned out, however. CS Lewis and others believed that actually landing on the moon would destroy the romance of it, and I doubt that has proved out in anything other than the most limited fashion. We just moved our men from the moon and men from Mars further out in imagination. I don’t know the science fiction genre well enough to know if the women from distant planets are still regarded as probably very sexy, but that was apparent even to a teenager that the fantasy was simply a way to talk more about sex. Even Heinlein did it. Come to think of it, that was another supposedly very exciting thing that I had little interest in. Venusian girls always seemed a bit creepy to me. Perhaps I just don’t have much interest in outer space in general, if I can’t even get interested a moon landing and potential sexy babes there.
*Here’s one: 1³ + 2³ = (1+2)², 1³ + 2³ + 3³ = (1+2+3)², 1³ + 2³ + 3³ + 4³ = (1 + 2 + 3 + 4)²… it’s just fun to notice