Do you remember where you were forty-five years ago at 7:59 p.m. this past Sunday. I do. I remember it vividly. I don’t know if it was the event that called us to my in-law’s house. It very well could have been. After all, we were a struggling family, and they were a well-established one. That meant their television screen was a lot bigger than was ours.
We were in the den of their house. Funny, I don’t remember the kids being in the room. Maybe my daughter had been put to bed. That seems a bit odd as we were at her grandmother’s house who tended to let her do whatever she wanted. Maybe she was in the room and I don’t remember because of the momentous moment. But I remember all of us sitting around the room, staring at the screen, the grainy black and white picture.
Earlier the world’s inhabitants let out a sigh of relief when the words were heard: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. Land it did; that black and white video we were gazing at in amazement was the leg of the Lunar Module Eagle resting in Moon dust.
Then, it happened. We saw a leg, the leg of an astronaut moving down the ladder. And we sucked in our breath as Neil Armstrong jumped from the ladder onto the surface. “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” we heard. Humans were now walking on the Moon.
There’s no reason for me to go to Google Image to recall one vivid picture of that historic event. It’s emblazoned on my mind. It’s the picture of the footprint on one of those astronauts on the Moon’s surface. I’m sure it’s still there today, a testimony that humans have gone far beyond our own planet.
A year before that Moon landing Astronaut William Anders took another picture while orbiting the Moon in preparation for the landing. The picture showed Earth rising over the Moon’s horizon just as the Sun rises over Earth’s. Earthrise. Wow! The Earth is so beautiful. The blue and white colors stand out so vividly against the darkness of space and the gray of other planets. The Earth is so special, our home, our delicate, delicate home.
There’s another picture of Earth I love. Eight years after the first Moonwalk, Voyager I was launched by NASA to explore our Solar System. She explored and sent back data for thirty-six years. In 1990 Voyager I left our Solar System. She was 3.7 billion miles from Earth. NASA commanded her to turn around and take one more picture, a picture of the Solar System and Earth. Earth appears in that picture as a Pale Blue Dot, occupying only a half pixel. Earth, so beautiful, so small.
The week before last Sunday all the news was about violence. Little children, refugees from violence, being yelled at violently. Israel and Hamas slinging missiles at each other again, with a renewed sense of violence. Upheaval in Ukraine. Passenger airlines being fired upon with surface to air missiles with bodies falling from the sky into the yard of an orphanage. Scores being shot in Chicago.
A footprint on the Moon. The Earth rising above the Moon’s horizon. The Pale Blue Dot that is where we live. We are a people of promise. We are so violent. And we are so insignificant. What is wrong with us?