When I was a young child, space travel was just becoming possible. Everything about it was new. It was out of this world. It was generating enough excitement that all kinds of products were being marketed with space themes. “Drink Tang, it’s what the astronauts drink”. Instant this, freeze dried that. One got the impression that people floating in aluminum cans in a vacuum at seventeen thousand miles per hour were eating all sorts of gourmet meals. Meals that the rest of us will be so happy to gobble down if we only had the chance. Furniture took on all sorts of slender and swoopy shapes. Why was slender aerodynamic shapes good for furniture? Was the coffee table soon to be fitted with a rocket engine? Everything about it seemed exciting. One my earliest memories was, simultaneously, the most momentous and the most confusing.
One night, when I was four and three quarters years old, our family was visiting a neighbors house and playing a badminton tournament under the lights. This was a common thing as the two families were both serious enough to have lined and lighted courts. We took turns as to who had home court advantage. This night, under a full moon, was their turn. What was different was that as we played, they had hauled their black and white TV outside, and everyone was keeping an eye on it. Televisions were not as ubiquitous back then, and harder to move. At one point, the game stopped, everyone watched a rather boring show very intently, and then erupted in cheering.
My mother took me by the hand, pointed at the moon in the dark sky, and explained to me “there are people standing on that moon, right at this moment. They have just stepped out of their vehicle.” I looked at it intensely. I stared and studied real hard, as hard as I could. “I don’t see any people” I said.
I too became enamored with space, just a little later. I was perhaps more interested in the machines of space travel than the idea of where to go. I think that I learned just how far away most everything was early on in life, and thus, had a pretty good idea that we were not going there anytime soon.
Some years later, my mom pointed to the full moon and asked me “can you see the man on the moon?” This time she was referring to the image of a large face, made by the patterns of craters and ancient dark lava. I did not see that either, did not know what she was talking about. I just looked at her and thought ‘haven’t we already been over this?’