When I heard Neil Armstrong had died, I could not look up at the moon or even see the stars; it was a bright, sunny day, but I thought about him and the impact he had made on me and so many other kids and grown-ups. An estimated 600 million earthlings watched him take his first step on the moon, and I was one of those souls on this planet who saw it live and will never forget that moment in history.
We were away on vacation in a hotel room. I was a kid and asked my Dad to wake me up when it was going to happen. There was just a small black and white TV screwed into the top of the dresser, but it would have to do. When dad woke me up, I sat up and remember seeing a grainy image of Armstrong, hovering a bit on the ladder of the Lunar Module as he prepared to be the first human being to step onto another world. He then uttered his now iconic line, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." What a giant leap it was then, as that indelible footprint in the lunar surface is there forever and remains inexorably in our minds.
In 1969 I had a fascination with space. TV shows like Star Trek and Lost in Space had stoked my imagination. I had also been a fan of the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers series, and wasn't Superman the ultimate space saga, an alien who came to this world and became one of us but was oh so much more too? By the time Apollo 11 lifted off, I had every reason to be excited about it. In my young mind I believed more than anything that we would soon be zooming off to these foreign planets I imagined, with the array of aliens both good and bad to encounter.
Reality eventually catches up to all of us, and even to NASA and the whole quest for space travel. While Armstrong was a hero in every sense of the word, there seemed to be a rapid descent for the voyages to the moon, with the Apollo 13 near-disaster no doubt contributing to that. Trips to the moon ended in the early 1970s, and then the Space Shuttle became the focus, with the goal to build a space station. All of these things took a long, long time, and getting to Mars or anywhere else seemed less and less likely.