As a schoolboy in 1969, I vividly remember the school headmaster piping the audio directly from the moon through the tinny speakers connected in every classroom.
My life (and those of everyone around me) would never be the same. The wide-eyed wonder at this vast engineering feat, at the skill and daring, would never leave me.
And now, an era has passed.
Earlier today, family members announced that at age 82, Neil Armstrong, Commander of Apollo 11 and the first man to set foot on the moon passed away following complications after recent heart surgery. In a statement, they said he "served his nation proudly as a Navy fighter pilot, test pilot and Astronaut." They added that he saw himself as "a reluctant American hero."
Often the recluse, Armstrong chose to speak publicly about his experiences only recently in a sequence of four interviews with CPA Australia's CEO Alex Malley.
To some extent, Armstrong's fame was thrust upon him by an unlikely series of events. The entire "race to the moon" was set in motion by US President John F. Kennedy in May 1961 when he said, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," he said. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
Following a Gemini flight, Armstrong was rostered to one of the six missions planned for the moon. His cool during an emergency situation during that Gemini flight guaranteeing him a place.
Generally, most Apollo missions had a prime crew and a reserve crew; the reserve crew being guaranteed a flight three missions later. No-one knew how many test missions would be required before the actual landing, so effectively any of the crews could have been "the one." That all changed with the launch-pad fire which killed the original prime crew, and Armstrong's team of Aldrin and Collins fell into the hot seat following a series of mission swaps and team changes.
A great and very humble man has left us. We will be the greater for his deeds and the lesser for his passing. And I have tears in my eyes as I write.