Apollo 11 Lands On the Moon

Aldrin on Moon (Armstrong in visor)

On July 20, 1969, astronauts in the Apollo 11 Mission landed on the moon, and the first humans walked on another world.  People from around the world watched on live television in breathless anticipation of one of humankind’s great accomplishments, which still seems amazing looking back at the level of technology across nearly half a century ago.

On that date, the Lunar Module Eagle separated from the Command Module Columbia, which was being piloted by Michael Collins.  On board the Eagle were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

NASA had originally planned for the astronauts to sleep after the Eagle landed.  But with everyone wanting to move forward, Armstrong and Aldrin instead began preparing to walk on the moon.

After several hours, Armstrong emerged from the hatch.  As he took the first step on the moon, he uttered the famous words: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Many listeners did not hear the word “a” that Armstrong meant to say, which affects the meaning of the sentence.  So experts still debate whether or not he said the word.

About twenty minutes after Armstrong’s first step, Aldrin joined him on the moon.  The two men spent 21 hours, 36 minutes on the moon’s surface before the Eagle ascended to join the Columbia for the trip back to earth.

This short NASA video features footage that television viewers saw during the landing.  To really appreciate the accomplishment, try to take yourself back to 1969 when the outcome was uncertain. And remember when we recognized that human beings could do some pretty amazing things.

Where were you when people first walked on the moon? Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo via public domain.

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    Where Are You Now My Handsome Billy?

    The shooting early this morning in an Orlando nightclub became the deadliest single-day mass shooting in the history of the United States. There are no words for the tragedy, even while the media tries to sort through the gunman’s motivations when he singled out the Florida gay nightclub for his horrible act.

    The politicians will have many words in the upcoming weeks, connecting the shooting to their issues, rightly or wrongly. We will hear more about the shooter’s affiliations and we will again debate a killer’s ability to gain access to weapons. And most likely, they will fail to agree on a solution.

    At times like this one, it can sometimes be helpful to turn off the TVs and seek comfort in music. Maybe eventually there will be some hope that will lead us to songs like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” But today, we can only think about the victims.

    Along those lines, one of the sweetest songs about losing someone comes from Bruce Springsteen’s “The Last Carnival.” While the song was written about the loss of E Street Band member Danny Federici, it still seems appropriate for a wider meaning.

    Moon rise, moon rise, the light that was in your eyes is gone away;
    Daybreak, daybreak, the thing in you that made me ache has gone to stay;
    We’ll be riding the train without you tonight,
    The train that keeps on moving.

    It’s black smoke scorching the evening sky;
    A million stars shining above us like every soul living and dead
    Has been gathered together by God to sing a hymn
    Over the old bones.

    Photo by Chimesfreedom. What is your favorite song of comfort? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    More Online Time Killers V: Colors and Bikes

    In the latest version of “Online Time Killers,” we present you with one that tests your color perception and another one with simple black and white graphics to challenge your cycling skills.

    First up is a website where you can test how well you detect colors. According to the website, “1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some form of color vision deficiency.” See if you fall into one of those categories by heading over to the Online Color Challenge. The test is based on the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test, where the lower the score you get, the better you are at distinguishing colors. Unfortunately, I found out I’m not perfect.

    Free Rider 3 features a challenging biking video with simple graphics. See if you can navigate the bicyclist through varied terrain, using your cursor buttons. The up button accelerates and the down button brakes, while the right and left buttons help you navigate your angle. There are various tracks designed by players, or you may design your own. On the ones I tried, I made it through some of the hurdles but have yet to make it all the way through. I just need to spend some more time on it.

    How did you do? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    When a Hockey Team Made Us Believe in Miracles

    On February 22, 1980, the U.S. hockey team shocked the world with a 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. As time expired, sportscaster Al Michaels asked television viewers a question that he immediately answered, “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!”

    The U.S. team went on to win the gold medal two days later with a victory over Finland.

    The 1980 Team and the Miracle on Ice

    Although the U.S. team entered the Olympics seeded seventh, the team was more than a rag-tag group of amateurs. A large percentage of the team was made up of top college athletes on their way to the NHL. And Coach Herb Brooks had the team in top shape, as it was led by players like Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig.

    The “Miracle on Ice” resonated with Americans weary from the Iran hostage crisis searching for something to celebrate. Events from the 1970s like Watergate also contributed to the fact that Americans yearned to be proud again.

    Also, President Carter had already announced that the U.S. would be boycotting the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow because of the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan. So it was not surprising that a scrappy group of young men taking on the powerful Soviet hockey team in the Winter Olympics would bring us together.

    In the U.S., we watched the game on tape delay during prime time. The game had already been played several hours earlier in the day. But in those pre-Internet days, it was easy to believe you were still seeing it live.

    As we watched the end of the final period, hoping the U.S. would keep the Soviets from tying the score, had we ever seen a more tense final few minutes to a sporting event?

    I was a kid, but I remember watching every U.S. hockey game in the Olympics. By some chance, I had caught the U.S.’s first game against Sweden when the U.S. tied the game with seconds left. From then on, I loved the team, and for me it was my luck that the team would go on to win the gold medal.

    Portrayals on TV and Film

    I also love sports movies, and the story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team is probably the only sports story where I own both an acted-out version of the story and the documentary. I have never seen the 1981 ABC made-for-TV movie Miracle on Ice starring Karl Malden as Brooks, but there would be later excellent movies about the team.

    The 2004 movie, Miracle, starring Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks, is a gripping by-the-book re-telling of the story of the team. You know how the movie is going to end and there is nothing flashy about the way the story is filmed.  But it is a fun movie and a fitting tribute to the team and to Brooks, who passed away after principal filming but before the movie was released.

    Documentaries About the Teams

    In 2001, a documentary was made about the team called Do You Believe In Miracles? The Story Of The 1980 U.S. Hockey Team. The movie features interviews with many of the players, Al Michaels, and others.

    The film does an excellent job putting the team and its accomplishments in the context of the times. And watching the story still makes me tear up. Currently, the entire documentary is available on YouTube.

    But what about the Soviets? More recently, in 2015 ESPN’s 30 for 30 series helped correct the imbalance of the coverage with Of Miracles and Men, directed by Jonathan Hock. This fascinating documentary examines the story of the members of the 1980 Soviet team and their experience in the Olympics. One of the most touching moments is hearing one of the players describe watching the U.S. team celebrate their victory.

    Similarly, another documentary examined the Soviet side of the story. Gabe Polsky directed Red Army, which was released in 2014.  Red Army tells the story about the Soviet team from a broader perspective but with significant focus on the 1980 team. The movie follows the history of the Soviet-Russian hockey program from the 1950s to the 1990s.

    On this anniversary of one of the greatest sports battles in my lifetime, I’m thankful for everyone involved in the game. And also thankful that decades later they made outstanding movies about the teams.

    What is your memory of the 1980 Miracle on Ice? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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