To the Moon and Back

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969, AD. We came in peace for all mankind. — Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.

I took this photo of our moon two years ago, during my summer in Amsterdam. At the time I set it aside, not thinking it would ever be an appropriate photo for a travel blog.

But with all the build-up this week to the anniversary of Apollo 11, it seems like an appropriate photo for today, the 50th anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. After all, isn’t space the ultimate travel destination?

I was too young in 1969 to remember much of Apollo 11. I have a vague memory of looking up at the night sky and asking my mom if the astronauts were on the moon at that very moment. “Maybe,” she said, but as I think about this memory, I know it was highly unlikely at that age that I was taking a walk outdoors after dark in the middle of July. And so, as we say in my family, I probably dreamed it.

As I watch all the documentaries on TV this week about Apollo 11, there are two thoughts that keep coming back to me. The first is that walking on the moon seems so very concrete compared to what we’ve seen of space travel in the past few decades. A man or woman taking a spacewalk from the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station leaves no trace. But a walk on the moon … there are footprints.

And the second thought is that, for a while at least, all of humanity was united in aiming for and achieving a common goal.

Would that all of humanity could be that unified again.

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