I think everyone over 50 remembers where they were on July 20, 1969!
Mike had just graduated from Miami University and we were living in an old farm house near Cedarville for the summer. He was working for his dad at DeWine Seed Company, and we were preparing to move to Ada so Mike could go to Ohio Northern University College of Law.
The space program was such a big part of our lives. We grew up as the space program was developing and growing. When we were 10 (1957) the Soviets shocked the world and the US by launching Sputnik , the world’s first artificial satellite. The beep-beep from Sputnik was a wake-up call for the US. It was under President Eisenhower that our space program really started moving. President Kennedy at Rice University in 1962 articulated the vision and goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade of the 1960s. Our early success and failures were captured live on TV. Mike remembers many a morning he would set his alarm to get up early before school to see a space launch. The seven original astronauts were household names, including Ohio’s John Glenn.
That week in July of 1969, we were all glued to our TVs, confident that the mission was going to be successful!
Mike and I had two babies at the time. Patrick was almost a year and a half, and Jill was only 4 months old. And we didn’t want them to miss it! We actually held baby Jill up in front of the TV, and took home movies of her watching that black and white image of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon! We wanted her to always know that she got to watch the first man walk on the moon.
Last week Mike and I joined in the festivities at the Neil Armstrong Museum in Wapakoneta. Chas Fagan, a world renown sculptor who created the Ronald Reagan statue in the rotunda of the US Capitol, created two new sculptures of Neil Armstrong that were unveiled. The first, as you start down the walk to the museum, shows Neil Armstrong as a boy, sitting on a bench with a model airplane in his hand. It is a XXXX, his favorite plane to fly. And the second statue is an incredible, slightly larger than life statue of Neil Armstrong in his flight suit with boots and helmet. Fagan told the story of sculpting the flight helmet and how the curves really need to be exact to look right! So he asked Mark Armstrong, Neil’s son, if he had a helmet. Mark did have one so he sent it to Fagan. Mark later told us that he loved to ride motor bikes, and his father did not think the helmets were safe enough, so he called back to NASA to send him one of his old helmets! This helmet was used by the sculptor to get it just right!
As Mike addressed the crowd in Wapakoneta to cut the ribbon for the new STEM lab at the museum, he quoted the famous Kennedy speech, showing what a huge challenge it was:
“But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun—almost as hot as it is here today—and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out — then we must be bold.”
How amazing it was that this goal was set, not really knowing how we would achieve it. What imagination, what optimism, what a sense of wonder!
So we are having a little family “moon landing party” this weekend. We pulled our Apollo 11 glasses from the attic, a promotion of Marathon (or Bonded Oil). (Anna even found a couple more of them at Goodwill.) We’re making pizza — covered with cheese because everyone knows the moon is made of cheese, with a few strategically placed peperoni craters on it. For the beverage, of course, we are serving icy glasses of Tang. I also have a recipe for Spiced Tea, which my kids and grandkids loved to make for Christmas presents. I’m mixing it with very hot water to dissolve it, then serving it chilled over ice. And for dessert we are having Mix in the Pan Chocolate Cake. I am making a half recipe in a round pan, then dropping some chocolate chips on top as well as large pieces of walnuts and maybe even a Reese’s peanut butter cup, to get the ridges and craters of the moon’s surface. When it is cool, I’ll dust the top with a little confectioner’s sugar, then securely fix my Lego space man and American flag in place!
First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.