Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

One Small Step . . .

40 years ago, today, Sgt Pepper–er, no. 40 years ago, today, Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral, FL (called Cape Kennedy in those days when we named everything after our slain president). It would soon land men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon.  I was 7 and living in Orlando, FL and remember the events of that summer vividly.  In honor of this anniversary, my wife has given me a biography of astronaut Neil Armstrong, one of my childhood heroes.

Earlier this week, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, 2nd man on the moon, celebrated this anniversary with a public call for us to push full force for a human-staffed mission to Mars.  I second that. I want us to build cities on the moon and prepare to colonize and terraform Mars.  I grew up thinking we’d already be there by this time, but Dick Nixon killed the program–supposedly for its expense, although the ENTIRE NASA budget is a tiny fraction of one military weapons system.  We humans are meant to be explorers. Without that, something in our spirit dies–and wars increase.  Let’s heal this planet AND go to the stars.

Share your memories:  Where were you when Apollo 11 launched?  When it landed (nearly crashing into a crater!) on 20 July 1969? What did you think, feel, dream? Should we go back?


July 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. “Let’s heal this planet AND go to the stars.” It did me good to read that, Michael. I also grew up back when the idea of space exploration satisfied a quasi-religious yearning in young people that even the worst of its nationalistic, Cold War overtones couldn’t entirely corrupt. Space used to be this rich story for me that summed up everything that was exciting about being alive, but I gave up on it once I grew up. Your post made me think about how wonderful it would be someday to truly wrest the world’s space programs away from the military.

    Comment by Greg Yost | July 16, 2009

  2. I remember it too Michael. I volunteer to go to Mars if they colonize it.
    My Grand Mother who was a proud old Southern lady said that she didn’t think that they actually went to the moon. She said they could have gone on a Hollywood back lot. Understand that she could neither read or write having gone to work in a cotton mill at age 10. She asked me for solid proof that humans actually got there. I could only parrot what the media said. (I do believe that we got there by the way) Now we have the technology to convince people that we did something that we actually did not do.

    Comment by Paul | July 17, 2009

  3. We should terraform Terra.

    Comment by Steven Kippel | July 17, 2009

  4. If you remember it, Paul, then, like me, you are now too old to go to Mars. Our hearts would never stand the g-forces on lift off.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 17, 2009

  5. Greg, I absolutely want to end the militarization of space. Thing is–since the end of Apollo more and more of NASA has been military-related. Exploration probably wouldn’t prevent some military presence–but it gives an alternative, pioneering, quest for the human spirit. When the Scandinavians became explorers, they gave up going i viking (militarily raiding the coasts of Europe) and transformed from a culture of war to one of peace.

    Of course, as with Columbus, far too often exploration and exploitation have gone together. But there is no life on Luna and if Mars has any it is only at the bacterial level. No one to enslave or put on reservations. So, we can explore and colonize this solar system without exploitation. And give ourselves a dream and focus OTHER than global domination or getting rich, etc.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 17, 2009

  6. On this date, 40 years ago…I was in the living room of our house on Honeysuckle Way, now part of the destruction and expansion, which is the Louisville International Airport. We were watching the NASA broadcats and trying assemble this million or so piece model of the lunar module. (can’t remember if we ever got it together!) It was truly amazing that we were able to land on the moon! It is one of the real memories I have prior to age 10.

    Comment by Georgianna | July 17, 2009

  7. Michael, I remember. I was a child, staying up half the night to see something my parents thought was important. We were in West Germany, Dad was a soldier, and we went to a friend’s house, because we couldn’t get TV where we were.

    I dozed in and out, and then my parents woke me and said, “LOOK!!!! WE’RE GOING TO WALK ON THE MOON!!!” For a moment, I was so drowsy that I thought they literally meant “WE”, as in the two of them and me. I sat up, stunned, and then realized that it was the astronaut on television. And still, I remember it, and think it was so cool to see.

    Comment by Amy | July 17, 2009

  8. Explain, Steven.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 17, 2009

  9. It was the summer between 1st and 2nd grade, my dad was a bit of a science/space/flight buff…we were all sitting in the living room, my dad in “his chair” mom on the couch, kids on the floor, and my dad was sitting behind us giving commentary, and I remember him clearly saying, “Now Kids, pay attention, listen to this, remember this, because one day you are going to be able to tell your children where you were on this day!” We had popcorn.

    Comment by Carla B | July 17, 2009

  10. Was that for the launch or the landing? I watched the launch from my backyard–it filled the sky from horizon to horizon. The landing we watched on TV, of course, and held our collective breath waiting to make sure that the Lunar Lander didn’t crash into that huge crater.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 17, 2009

  11. I shall appeal to President Obama for a seat on the Mars expedition…:-)

    Comment by Paul | July 18, 2009

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