I was just a few days shy of being 1 year old when man first walked on the moon.
My younger brother, Alan, who was also born on July 25, one year later to the day, was about to come into the world.
So to say I remember when Neil Armstrong uttered those now famous words would be a real stretch. My main memory of the moon landing, honestly, comes from old reel-to-reel footage my parents had of the television broadcast telling the world what was happening above it, which I didn’t watch until many years later.
Not having true firsthand knowledge of the moon landing, however, didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for all things space related growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, which has the well-earned nickname “The Rocket City.”
“Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Lost In Space,” it didn’t really matter. If it had space in the title, I was a fan. Looking back, I guess I was a bit of a geek, but it didn’t seem like it because just about everyone I knew had the same passion for the final frontier.
Is it wrong to love the U.S. Space & Rocket Center or Space Camp? If you think so, you’ve never been. Trust me, it’s worth the trip.
While Houston and Cape Canaveral get all the space program love today, its genesis really is Huntsville thanks to the late Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist who fled Nazi Germany and became the architect of the American space program, designing the crafts that made the trip to the moon possible.
Von Braun was based in Huntsville, and despite his significant place in history, growing up the only thing I knew about him was the civic center downtown was named after him.
Yeah, I really paid attention back in the day.
Naming landmarks after von Braun was certainly appropriate, as Huntsville went from a small town in north Alabama whose economy centered around cotton to a sure-enough city serving as one of the country’s leading NASA, military and defense contractor hubs.
Given its connection to the space industry, it’s probably no surprise I wanted to be an astronaut when I was growing up. I could think of nothing better than being able to follow in the footsteps of those who were going to the moon, or flying on the space shuttle, or building space stations. Are you kidding me? Does it get any better than that?
Then I found out you have to have good eyesight and a proclivity for math to be an astronaut. So I ended up going into the newspaper business instead.
I’m not going to lie, as the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing fuels talk of more trips to the moon, it makes me want to figure out if there is some way for an almost 51-year-old who has even worse eyesight and math skills to revive that dream of being an astronaut.
To paraphrase Buzz Lightyear, which should tell you where I actually am in my life, maybe it’s not too late to go to infinity and beyond!
— Patrick Graham is the owner of Fort Payne Publishing Inc.