One not so small step
Today is the 40th anniversary of the first moon walk, when Neil Armstrong laid aside his trumpet (that was Louis Armstrong - Ed) and gave his immortal 'One small step' speech. The Apollo missions were controlled by computers that had less processing power than a calculator, and yet the Apollo 11 mission was a success. The men came home safely and the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, was free to retire to a life of obscurity, turning down interviews and ignoring requests for autographs.
I remember getting up early at stupid o'clock to watch that 'one small step' live on an old black and white TV set. The pictures were grainy, and the images ghostlike, but to a small lad sat in a Shetland Island croft in the still of a summer morning, it was quite magical. Compared to today's technological achievements, communication technology was fairly primitive. 1969 was 20 years pre-web. Satellites were still in their infancy. Today we would follow every step of such a monumental event on news feeds, watch live high resolution images on Sky News or CNN and talk about it as it was happening across our social networks on Twitter and Facebook.
There were things we didn't find out until a lot later. For example, 'that one small step for man' wasn’t quite as small as was made out. Neil Armstrong set the lunar module down so gently that the shock absorbers didn’t compress enough. He then had to jump down 3 and a half feet from the Eagle’s ladder to the surface. Later, when Buzz Aldrin emerged to join Armstrong on the moon's surface, he had to make sure not to lock the door because there was no outer handle! Most embarrassingly, when the lander separated from the orbiter, the cabin wasn’t fully depressurized, which resulted in a burst of gas, throwing the landing module four miles off its target. There were other minor disasters we didn't hear about, but at the time, it was more than enough for this 12 year old lad that man was actually walking on the moon.