Monday Open Thread – Neil Armstrong

If there is one monument to the arrogance of the modern press, it could be their insistence on botching the most important quote of the 20th Century, and if there is a second-most monumental testament it could be their total failure to report that the most earth-shattering statement of the 21st Century was made by the same man.

You see, the scratchy audio from the Moon, in 1969, of Neil Armstrong saying that he made a small step was a poor record of the first words uttered by a human man standing on another body that was not the Earth.  What he rehearsed beforehand, what he actually said,  what made logical sense, and what he reported later, were the words “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  What the press heard was the statement without the ‘a’.  Armstrong insisted afterward that static must have obscured the ‘a’, but it didn’t matter.  The men and women of journalism decided, in their wisdom, that they had heard and reported the statement without the ‘a’, so that’s what he must have said.  It didn’t matter that it didn’t make any sense.  It didn’t matter that later audio analysis detected evidence of the missing ‘a’ in the recordings.  They had spoken, and for nearly 40 years, so it was.

Like many of the children and young adults who watched the Apollo 11 landing, Armstrong was a hero to me.  I found it a little disturbing that his words about the events of July, 1969 seemed to make so little difference.  I was not the only one who idolized Armstrong, obviously.  Yesterday’s Jerusalem Post mentions Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who was 14 when he watched Armstrong’s flight and eventually died in space aboard the space shuttle Columbia during its disastrous final reentry.  Many eventual NASA astronauts were likewise inspired by Armstrong’s flight.  I was never seriously on the astronaut track, but I spent many years in Armstrong’s earthly footsteps, getting the same University degrees, both of us spending too much time at Grissom Hall (renamed for Hoosier Gus Grissom after Armstrong graduated, of course) at Purdue before it was torn down to make room for the new Armstrong Hall, which newly houses the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, built in 2007.  We both belonged to the aerospace honorary fraternity Sigma Gamma Tau there, and spent time at Purdue in the same rooms with Gene Cernan (whose Texas ranch is coincidentally very near Texan59’s) and Jim Lovell and other astronauts, discussing the future of aerospace with other space-minded engineers.  Not a year has passed since 1982, when I first met my wife at an Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, that I have not visited family within a few miles of Armstrong’s farm near Lebanon.  He has always loomed large in my awareness, though he is gone now, but I don’t mean to make this about me.

You know who does want to make Armstrong’s death about himself?  Barack Obama.  Check out this photograph of Barack contemplating the Moon.  This is how he chose to honor Armstrong on the occasion of his death.  By making it about Barack.  Mike Flynn has a nice piece at Breitbart about the latest Barack cameo.  If only Neil had been as accomplished as the One.  But Neil was never pResident, and he never earned the Nobel prize for anything.  Neil should consider himself lucky to have had his few minutes of fame and his big misquote.

But that leads me to Armstrong’s second big quote.  The Jerusalem Post article yesterday mentions that when Armstrong visited Israel in 2007, he came to console Ilan Ramon’s widow, Rona.  The New Republic notes that he also visited Jerusalem to take a few steps that he had anticipated all his life.

The American astronaut was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they got to the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the TempleMount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.  “These are the steps that lead to the temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.”  Armstrong then asked Ben-Dov if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.  “So Jesus stepped right here,” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.  To which Armstrong, the devout Christian, replied, “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.”  The secular world remembers Armstrong as, variously, an aerospace engineer, a university professor, a Navy fighter pilot and, of course, as the first man in history to peer back at Earth from the surface of the moon.  But those who were closest to the famous astronaut – his widow, Carol, his two sons, Eric and Mark (from a previous marriage), his brother and sister, and other survivors – remember Neil Armstrong as a man of faith.

I find this last bit about Armstrong to be the most interesting, and I always have.  Like most of us, the first man on the Moon was no superhuman giant.  Like many of us, Neil Armstrong knew anxiety, weakness, motion-sickness and humiliation.  I won’t go into details, but it’s true.  Still, when there was pressure, and certain death loomed, he responded calmly and deliberately with the certainty of an unshakable faith.  During the ascent of the Saturn V first stage of the Apollo 11 flight, on a mission which had never been done before and in which he was convinced they had a 50% chance of surviving, his heart rate never soared past 110 bpm.  Mine has hit 200 in engineering meetings.  He was chosen for the command of Apollo 11 because of this, although the reason given was his “lack of ego.”  There was a reason why his ego was in check, and there was a reason why ice water ran in his veins.  He was saving his real excitement for later.  Just ask Meir Ben-Dov.

Additional Note About Armstrong’s Widow, Carol:  When Carol Held Knight Armstrong was widowed a few days ago, it was the second time in her life, and I think that fact makes some of the irresponsible gossip about her particularly cruel and despicable.  She certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it, and she must be horrified by it.  Overall, the quality of the news coverage of Neil’s life and death has been mixed, with some of the better stories, ironically, coming from over seas.  But some stories, including the Wikipedia entry on Neil, have made a veiled implication that Carol was somehow a home-wrecker, and that by meeting Armstrong at a golf breakfast in 1992 when he was technically still married, she caused the dissolution of his 38-year marriage to college sweetheart Janet who is the mother of his three children.

The unhappy facts of the first Armstrong marriage are not really in dispute, and it was Janet who left Neil in 1989 after simply growing tired, according to friend and fellow astronaut Gene Cernan, of “being Mrs. Neil Armstrong.”  Her determination to separate was not a secret, and she complained bitterly of Neil’s silence and emotional detachment, especially regarding the death of their daughter at a young age.

The simple fact is that friends fretted over Armstrong’s deep depression for three years after Jan left, and only in 1992 did mutual friends Paul and Sally Christiansen attempt to set up Neil and Carol by arranging the golf breakfast where they met.  Eventually they made further contact and became friends, but it’s no surprise that it was only after marriage was discussed that plans were made to finalize the end of the marriage with Janet.  For some of the details and related humor, begin reading on page 643 of James Hansen’s book “First Man:…”  The whole situation, while regrettable as divorce always is, was nothing like the tabloid implications and judgmental smugness that have been showing up in otherwise reputable news sites this week.  Carol gave Neil a new start, and she deserves better than lies.

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About GruntOfMonteCristo

Fearless and Devout Catholic Christian First, Loving Husband and Father Second, Pissed-Off Patriot Third, Rocket Engineer Dork Last.
This entry was posted in Country, God, Open Threads, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Monday Open Thread – Neil Armstrong

  1. barnslayer says:

    In a moment of religious contemplation Oblamer looks above to the symbol of his faith.

    • Good point, Barn! I didn’t even think about that. He does seem attracted to crescents, doesn’t he?

      • barnslayer says:

        Or the dope could have been thinking… “That thing up there is so small. There’s no way that white boy was walking on it”.

        • I get what you’re saying: “You didn’t walk on that, Neil. Somebody else did that for you. It was all union labor that built the rocket and the moslem scientists in Mecca who did the math before NASA stole it. Now, dangit, which way do I point this prayer rug?” 🙂

          • texan59 says:

            Just to clarify a point made in the post. My ranch – Rancho el gordito is quite a bit smaller than Mr. Cernan’s . Last I heard his was about 30X larger! I have signed books from “The First Man on the Moon”, and, “The Last Man on the Moon”. Treasures for sure. I was fortunate to grow up near Grissom AFB and watch the KC135 Tankers and AWACS planes shake our house. Many years ago I had the pleasure to meet Ed White’s widow. What a sweet lady. And BTW, she enjoyed a good scotch. 😀

            • barnslayer says:

              I had a room mate in dental school who was an ex-KC-135 driver. He took part in the first circle the globe w/refueling flight. I sometimes heard him talk in his sleep as if he was on the airplane intercom. He also got ready for class (dressed and breakfast) at around 5:30 AM and went back to sleep dressed. That way he could jump out of bed when his alarm went off all ready to scramble to the flight line.

              • texan59 says:

                Every year on July 4, they had a big airshow at Grissom. T-Birds and B-52’s. I still can’t figure out how they get that big hunk of metal off the ground on a 10-12K foot runway 😯

            • Cool stuff, Tex! Neat about having a drink with Mrs. White! I’ve heard good things about Martha Chaffee, too, but the Apollo 1 widow I’d like to buy a drink for is Betty Grissom. That poor gal and her husband sure got put through the wringer.
              http://datamanos2.com/apollo1/grissom-media.html
              And if we were ever in the same bar with Tom Wolfe, I’d hold him down while she kicked him in the nuts a few times. That’d probably put a smile on her face. 😀

              • texan59 says:

                Apollo 7. Yeah, the Grissom’s took it in the shorts from a lot of people. There were asshats even bak then.

  2. There’s something wrong here. Where’s the cigarette?

  3. Michelle Malkin has this screenshot of a recent headline faux pas from NBC:

  4. Knight4GFC says:

    I hear Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America did well! Broke record for documentaries. $6.3 mil or something like that! I wish I could see it! 🙂

  5. MRM says:

    Thanks for all the great info on Neil Armstrong. I didn’t know much about him at all – and now I wish I’d paid more attention. (as usual)

  6. garnette says:

    I didn’t realize who was looking at the moon until you pointed it out. Then, I noticed the ears and knew for sure. He didn’t build that pose, he was lead to the place and told to look up at that white thing in the sky. Maybe that is the reason he doesn’t think anyone built anything, he has never built a thing in his life, including his college degree and law degree.

    • Good points, Garnette. I found out later this afternoon that this photo of “big-ears” was just a file photo from the White House files taken as he was boarding Marine One in Boulder, Colorado after some fund raiser a couple of years ago. So they really didn’t do ANYTHING to honor Armstrong. Not even take a fresh photo.

  7. MRM says:

    heh… Actually, on the day of the moon landing, we were on vacation, heading out west with another family (cousins). It was a camping trip, but that night we stopped at a motel that allowed campers in the lot next door. They had a pool, and we kids were having a great time. It turned out that our dads had chosen that site because we’d be able to watch tv in the motel lobby. TV was never a part of our summer vacations – we thought the pool was the big attraction. But we were all crowded around the little lobby tv when the landing was televised. At least that’s how I remember it. As I said, I really didn’t pay nearly enough attention to any of the good stuff…. 😦

    • texan59 says:

      We were at K-Mart in Kokomo. I remember standing in the TV department watching it! Pools were #1 item on vacations for sure. He!! to pay if there was no pool. 😆

      • barnslayer says:

        I was working at a summer camp (assistant rifle instr.). I didn’t get to see it until after the summer was over. No big screen TVs back then.

        • MRM says:

          Oh, true dat! I don’t even think the tv we were gathered around was color – much less big screen! Which was probably part of the problem with regard to keeping our (the kids) interest. Again, mea culpa!

          • texan59 says:

            All the video feed from the moon was b/w so the color tv didn’t do much for this. I don’t remember media coverage much. I believe it was the great commie Uncle Walter doing most of the talking, IIRC. No 24 hour coverage back in the day! A big screen was probably a 25″ or 26″ back then. In a 500 pound console. 😆

      • MRM says:

        So, one of you guys/gals who remember it better than I… How much lead time did we have for this event? Just curious, would we have known from the news (radio news, since we were traveling) that it would be that night? (My dad and my uncle are no longer with us, so I can’t ask them)

        • barnslayer says:

          The astronauts were in communication with ground control for most of the flight. I think they were blocked out while on the far side of the moon (hey that would make a good title for a song). Scheduling was pretty much all mapped out so you could see updates on tv and know when different phases of the mission were planned. Much more coverage back then than in recent years where it hardly made the news.

  8. garnette says:

    I have never heard about Buzz Aldrin’s communion on the moon. beloved2 posted the video on LI’s post If they didn’t return.

    • Thanks for this, Garnette. I think it’s a beautiful thing that men were only on the Moon for a few minutes before this happened. Some people were furious that it happened, even though it was kept quiet. Others remarked “How odd.” As Snopes put it:

      It’s also my understanding that several other astronauts, of a few denominations at various times, have brought communion with them into space. One Shuttle crew had an unusually large percentage of Catholic crew members, and got permission to share communion on the flight deck with one crewman acting as Extraordinary (really extraordinary) Minister of Holy Communion. Cool.

  9. Albert M Catlos says:

    Concerning Carol Armstrong: I don’t know her but I think she was Neil’s savior. She obviously endured a lot of bad comments, but she was there at the end committing his ashes to sea. A pretty courageous wife in my book. My hat is off to you Carol.

  10. Pingback: From the Archives: Requiescat In Pace, Neil Armstrong | For God, Family, and Country

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