The couch is still in my parents basement but the spaceship has long been retired.
News of the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, had me thinking back to childhood days in the basement, seat cushions propped up against the couch, with a sheet pulled over the front ready lift off. My friends and I would break only to head upstairs for lunch.
I was 18 months old when Armstrong took his "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," so I can't describe vivid memories of the day, but I certainly recall watching later space missions on our grainy, boxy television. The sight of astronauts plunging into the ocean returning from space was breathtaking.
As an aside, Armstrong flubbed his historic "one small step" quote, omitting the "a" before man.
One way to define a hero is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things.
Neil Armstrong was a reluctant hero; modest, reticent and soft spoken. In other words, I don't recall him pitching after shave or subway sandwiches. Yet he represented so much to so many, and his death marks the end of an era.
Gone are the days of seemingly limitless space exploration and wonderment due to NASA budget cuts.
Those of us over 40 are the last to see space as more than pure science fiction. I remember watching the 1970's TV show Space 1999, with it's orbiting space station long before the space shuttles, dreaming of the day I might hop on board.
Our children live in a world where even dreams have limits. They inhabit a world focused on results over creativity and the experience of learning. Helicopter parents prevent risk taking and schools are gutting arts programs as if they are tumors.
The Apollo 11 mission came with tremendous risks, evidenced by the release of a eulogy to be delivered by President Nixon in the event of a moon disaster :
"For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."
What does Neil Armstrong's death mean to you? I would enjoy hearing from you.