"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fly Me To the Moon... And Beyond

Today’s post is really is just a postscript to the last one on Feb. 20th.
I didn’t intend for the blog to be a list of tributes. But just this once, I promise, I can’t let this one go by.


In Recognition Of
The People Past and Present

I wrote this post just after the previous one and really wanted to share it …hmm, should I wait until July?

Well, a comment from a new friend about a lack of appreciation for the Apollo program, and an announcement today from NASA about cut backs to Mars missions has helped me decide.

Besides, it seems to be in keeping with an organic theme in this blog. It's a human story of dreams, awakenings and achievements.

And it's "pointing at the moon", LOL.

In July of 1969, the year man first stepped on the moon, I was still a little kid.
But lord, what a space freak, Star Trek geek, junior science nerd...

(Let’s just say I was a precocious child.)

It was just 2 years before, that another historic first had just been made by the Beatles.
It's theYouTube clip below, a song broadcast simultaneously around the world by satellite in 1967.

Fly Me To The Moon

Up to that summer I had followed the previous Apollo missions thanks to my interest in science, space and of course television.

This particular mission, Apollo 11…I was young...
but knew all about it. And this was BEFORE the Internet was a public utility. New satellites had made TV global and that had raised awareness. I was not alone in following this space mission, the whole world did. It was a first for mankind. A globally historic event.

We were really going to the moon.

From the July 16th launch on, everyday, I sat on the edge of my seat mesmerized and along with the entire world, watched the flight on TV. (Watch Apollo 11 Launch

 Nearing the July 20th landing date, it was vacation time at home and my parents told me they were bringing me with them to visit one of my uncles. (Frankly, I can’t recall if was in Delaware or New Jersey, what do you want, I was a kid). Now I love my uncle, don’t get me wrong, but the first thing that came to my mind naturally was...

“He’d better have a good TV.”

Of course, he did. :)

After just days of flight (for me a day felt like years in the back seat of my parent's car), the now docked command module CM and lunar module LM were finally in lunar orbit. Preparing to go to the surface. While the CM continued orbiting. The CM would re-dock with the LM after the mission to the surface and bring everyone (and some moon rocks) back home to Earth.

On July 20th 1969, I watched in awe along with my family and the rest of the world, the TV broadcast of the LM (the Eagle) landing on the moon.

 “Houston, The Eagle Has Landed”
(Watch Apollo 11 LM Landing)

 That night, I was enthralled as Neil Armstrong took the first human step on the moon and heard him say these words…

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

I was a kid but stayed awake... not wanting to miss a thing... for as long... as I could... konk.

That night, at my uncle's place, I slept on the floor on a mattress in the same room as my parents.

According to my mother, she woke up in the middle of the night and saw me walking around but not answer her. Walking in my sleep. It's the only time I’ve been known to do that… and, not just any somnambulism, she said there was something different in the way I was moving. She realized what I was doing. Just like the astronauts, walking as if somewhat weightless but wearing a bulky spacesuit and taking bouncy slow motion steps.

That's right... I was MOON-WALKING!
(Watch Actual Moon Walk)

Ok, so it seems humans taking a big step off the Earth and a small step on the moon was a big thing for me.

What do I know, I was a just kid…
who had witnessed a moment of pure bliss in the history of mankind.


What I don’t recall (again, I plead “I was a kid”) is at what point I wrote a letter to NASA.

And at what point... holy cow, I got a reply!

I never expected an answer... so when an envelope marked NASA arrived with my name on it. JOY!
I will always remember and never forget the name of the gentleman from NASA who wrote me back…

Howard Gibbons. God Bless him.

Along with Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr and Michael Collins, he is also a hero in my eyes.

NASA must have been getting thousands of letters from little kids all over the world. I don’t know if it was their PR policy to write everyone back like Santa Claus or he just was being kind to one enthusiastic kid. But WOW!

I continued corresponding with him for years. Over the course of the all the lunar missions, Apollo 11 up to Apollo 17. I received NASA mission reports and glossy color photos of the astronauts. I did also buy other NASA photos from a catalogue he sent me at some point. I saved my coins and I got photos of the earth from space, the moon, and the astronauts on the moon. But frankly, I was just thrilled he and NASA wrote me back!

Seriously… Hats off to NASA, the JPL and Mr. Gibbons.

Total funding for ALL the Apollo missions generating scientific, technological, and economic benefits: $19,408,134,000

Funding for banks and an economy that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place:  $Trillions and counting.

Although a few years old, this is a link to a special site for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. You can relive it virtually as they recreate the entire mission, day by day!
Flying mankind to another place in space for the first time and then back home safely.

(We Choose The Moon)

And Beyond

You might also like: Enough Said / Desiderata / The Red Letter /

© 2012 Peter Shimon


  1. OUTSTANDING Post, Peter. We are contemporaries with similar experiences. I grew up watching all the launches in school - they stopped classes and put us in the corridors with the few TVs available. I watched Armstrong and Aldrin from my grandparents' living room in Pennsylvania.

    Here's a fascinating shot of the Apollo 11 landing site taken from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009: http://fergdawg.blogspot.com/2009/07/40-years-later-lunar-lander-base-still.html44


    Tom Thompson

  2. Thanks for the mention of my father, the late Howard Gibbons. Nice to know he was as nice to you as he seemed to us, his family.


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