On July 20th, 1969 three Apollo 11 astronauts left the first foot prints on the moon. Fifty years later, we Earthlings remember and celebrate. With so much crumminess happening down on this planet, casting our eyes toward the heavens is a welcome distraction.
July 20th also happens to be my father’s birthday. I wish he were here to witness this historic space anniversary. When I was a little girl, he told me that NASA picked July 20th for the moon landing to honor his birthday. And I believed him. He was, after all, my Olympic Dad.
He bought me my first telescope so I could view the moon from our backyard.
One of the first songs I learned to play on the piano was a silly tune called, “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon’.
I photocopied that moon picture. Then in July, I sent my father a card. Dear Dad, In honor of your birthday, NASA has named a moon crater after you. Love, Evelyn.
In 1984, I applied to the new Teacher-in-Space program created by Ronald Reagan. My initial application was rejected as I did not meet NASA’s minimum age requirement. With the Challenger Shuttle’s tragic outcome, I guess I was lucky not to have won that long shot ticket.
Only a handful of humans have been lucky enough to view our planet Earth floating in space. This cosmic sight has evoked awe, humbleness, and tears.
“As we got further and further away, it [the Earth] diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine.
That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man.”
~James B. Irwin, Astronaut, Apollo Program
As for for the rest of us, we’re left to our imaginations and vicarious experiences like movies, video games, and flight simulators.
If you were to go for a rocket ride, what special items would you take with you?
I’d take my one of Dad’s fencing medals, a Hebrew prayer book, my ballet slippers, a photo of my kids, and a CD of poems a dear someone made for me.
Buzz Aldrin took holy communion aboard the Apollo 11.
During the Apollo 14 moon mission in 1971, the astronauts packed tree seeds which the Forest Service later germinated, reaping ‘Moon Trees’.
When Garret Reisman flew on board the space shuttle Endeavour in 2008, he brought along a vial of dirt from the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium.
Massachusetts native Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman brought several Jewish heritage items-dreidel, mini Torah scroll, menorah– aboard his space shuttle trips.
Recently I learned that the Apollo astronauts brought a cassette tape of their favorite tunes to listen en route and during their historic moon walk.
Buzz Aldrin played one of my dance favorites as he stepped onto the lunar surface: Frank Sinatra’s 1964 ‘Fly Me To The Moon’– an obviously perfect choice.
Other songs on Aldrin’s playlist included:
‘Mother Country’ by John Stewart
‘People’ by Barbara Streisand
‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon’ by Jonathan King
‘Spinning Wheels’ by Blood, Sweat, & Tears
“Angel of the Morning’ by Betty Swann.
In June, #NASAMoonMusic put out a request for public votes of tunes for the planned 2024 lunar return trip–when the first woman will walk. Out of the one million suggestions (surely many repeats), 500 songs made the final playlist—enough music for a 3 day journey.
Sinatra’s swinging hit was no. 2.
Another old favorite of mine, ‘Moon River’, was 106 on the list, though not the version I like.
I was surprised that no classical pieces made the list. Gee, not even Debussy’s ‘Claire de lune?’ Or Dvorak’s haunting, Song to the Moon?
Star Trek composer Michael Giaccino wrote Voyage, a concert piece that aims to recreate the feeling of launch day–from the astronaut’s waking up to buckling in the capsule to blasting off. floating, landing, and returning home.
What music would be on your space playlist?
“I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you…”