Apollo Day 1

By Greg Bear
July 9, 2013

July 20th 1969.

The first day of Apollo Year One, Ray Bradbury declared.

Ever since childhood, I had arisen early in the morning in San Diego to watch astronauts launch from Cape Canaveral, to track the progress of one of my greatest passions--the human quest for a life in space and on other worlds.

And now it was here.

Everything wonderful and tragic and heroic had been prologue to this beautiful, agonizing, drawn-out moment.

Night fell over our apartment building. The television stayed on. I hardly dared move, kneeling before the antenna-sketched lines drawing black and white images--faces, recaps, impatient opinions.

My mother and father and grandmother and I all watched, stunned, quiet. In a trance, we listened to the pundits--including my heroes, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. We were waiting for Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to finish their first lunar rest, and emerge on the ladder leading to the lunar surface.

We had no idea what would happen.

But deep inside, I did know what would happen. And in my very cells, I felt the miraculous and insane importance of what we were watching. I have spent the rest of my life trying to convey just a part of that wondrous truth.

For the first time in four billion years, a living thing from Earth had traveled to another world, our closest neighbor in space.

Neal Armstrong, in crude but amazing video, served as surrogate for every moon child locked before those hundreds of millions of flickering screens.

He also served as surrogate for every insect, every fish, every mouse, every giraffe, every petrel and crow and tiger, every chimpanzee and gorilla, every one of our ancestors back to the wide-eyed lemurs--every bit of cellular plasma blebbing through the seas of this old world.

Animals unknowing... but humans united in awe and made young again.

He stepped down on another world. Soon he was followed by Buzz Aldrin, and they became true equals in geological history, where minutes and hours are insignificant.

They left their boot prints in the soft, vacuum-tender dust.

I wept.

There will never in human time be another moment like that one.

Until the next.