Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

Tomorrow is the 6 month mark of my dad's passing. The following piece is dedicated to him.

I might be the only person who tears up whenever they see the lunar lander at the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum -- but I'm okay with that.

Rewind a decade and imagine a 12-year-old who loves to learn. This 12-year-old's dad decided to take her to the one place in America that has (what to a child feels like) a never ending lot of free museums and national monuments.

And yes -- that 12-year-old was me.

You see, my father's heart was starting to fail then but I had no idea. So he decided to give both of his daughters a week of his time by taking them on a "daddy-daughter" trip. My sister got New York City and I got the Nation's Capitol.

It was easy to pick the first attraction to see upon our arrival in D.C. We headed straight for the Air & Space Museum because of my love for all things science-fiction and my strong desire to be the first girl to land and live on the planet Mars. Plus, I had turned in a book report on a Neil Armstrong biography just days before leaving for the trip, so Air & Space felt 100 percent appropriate.

I remember it like it was yesterday. The Spirit of Saint Louis hanging over head, the swarms of fellow tourists gazing at the space race artifacts surrounding them at every turn. It was learning heaven.

Then, low and behold, the greatest sight of all -- an Apollo lunar lander. It was everything I thought it would be an more. NASA never got to send this particular lander to space but I'm glad they didn't because my dad and I got a chance to see it together.

Forty years ago today 3 American men began the quarter-million-mile journey beyond Earth's atmosphere into the black and star-filled universe for all of mankind. We were going to the moon and nothing was going to stop us.

Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin did what most every human being could never even conceive doing in any lifetime. They woke up one morning and brushed their teeth, took a shower, and put on their pants one leg at a time just like most. But then they did a little something different. They suited up and took a man-made machine for a wild ride to this little place we like to call the moon and then when they were done they came home. Sounds like a fun job to me.

But I digress ...

I visited the Air & Space Museum today. This time I was by myself. Every time I turned around I saw another piece of American history and all I wanted to do was call my dad to tell him where I was and what I was doing.

Then I saw it -- the lunar lander -- I nearly lost myself.

My heart sank, my eyes welled up with tears, and all I could do was smile and stare at the beautiful space craft that I had seen so many years ago.

I'm taller now so the angle I looked at it from was a bit different but the feeling of seeing it wasn't. Man visited the moon six times before they stopped, but we did it. We did what President Kennedy said we'd do in 1961 when so many people thought we wouldn't. We dreamed big and made it happen. What could be better?

I can't help but think that my this why my dad and I both loved visiting the Air & Space Museum twice in one week. He knew knew the extent of what man was capable of and it was in that very museum -- standing in front of the lunar lander -- that I learned that life's possibilities are endless.

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