Letters from the Lunar Outpost

If you create an act, you create a habit. If you create a habit, you create a character. If you create a character, you create a destiny.
- Andre Maurois, French Writer (1885-1967)

Taking nothing away from fearless sailors sailing uncharted oceans, or explorers risking death, braving the most brutal elements on Earth to become the first to the poles or the first to the great summits of the Earth, of all those great adventures of exploration, none of them match the achievement of man walking on the Moon.

Three astronauts sitting atop the tallest, heaviest, and most powerful rocket ever built, blasted into outer space, travelling in a vehicle with a computer system the rough equivalent of a calculator from the 1980s, leaving the home planet nearly one-quarter of a million miles behind in the rear view to orbit and then land on the very Moon that human beings had simply stared at in awe and wonder for hundreds of thousands of years? To me that was easily mankind’s greatest adventure.

Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong, whose skills as a pilot and whose cool under pressure helped avert disaster on a landing fraught with technical glitches, Neil Armstrong, who came home a hero and could have spent the rest of his life a rock star doing a tour of every TV show imaginable, but instead chose, for the most part, to keep a very low profile and stay out of the limelight.

So keep in mind my respect for Armstrong as a class guy, a guy who was never a braggart, but when I heard of his passing today, it also reminded me of a Saturday Night Live short film that had always stuck with me from the one time I saw it a good fifteen years back . . .

I just thought that was so perfect, I mean, how do you come back to Earth after walking on the Moon? How do you come back down to Earth, literally and figuratively? How do you put up with all the mundane bullshit of day to day life here on Earth and not just keep responding to all of it by saying, “I walked on the friggen’ moon, man!”

And yes, for those of you back at home who were paying close attention, the filmmakers got it wrong, the date of the moon landing was July 20, 1969.

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Team of Rivals
Doris Kearns Goodwin