16 July 2009

Apollo 11: A View from 1969

Forty years ago, my parents went on their honeymoon to Germany and watched the Apollo 11 moon landing in a pension there.  They told me the story a bunch of times of how the pension owners woke them up around 1am to come down and watch the landing on a little TV.  It was a magic moment.

Earlier this week, making my way through the archeological dig that is the attic in the house I inherited from my father, I found, buried under three layers of other things, a trunk of Apollo 11 memorabilia -- newspapers, magazines, etc.  The most wondrous was a copy of the July 24, 1969 Needham Times.  My parents were both from Needham, Massachusetts, and my maternal grandfather, Kenneth W. Webb, was the publisher and editor of the Times for many years.

I've never had the chance to read many of my grandfather's writings, because not many seem to have been preserved.  He retired when I was quite young, and he died when I was eleven.  Until I found this copy of the Times, I'd only ever read some letters, a short history of the family that he wrote for me, and an editorial he published in the last newspaper he worked for, about going fishing with one of his daughters and his grandson, Matt.  (My mother's still a great fisherwoman; me ... well, the one thing that I think would really disappoint him about me is my aversion to both fish and water!)

Here, in memory of a particularly significant moment of history for me, is my grandfather's editorial about the moon landing:


Editorial Views
Needham Times, 24 July 1969
by Kenneth W. Webb

Apollo 11's mission to the moon is expected to increase man's knowledge in many ways.

One lesson which should not be overlooked is that when Americans have a well-defined goal, they can work together in a manner which cannot be equalled anywhere on earth.

Thousands of individual workers in thousands of industrial corporations and government organizations were on the team which made the achievements of Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin possible.

These were people of all faiths and of all races.

Their work was guided by superb organizational genius.

Obstacles beyond the comprehension of most of us were overcome.

In the main this was a technological achievement.

It was accomplished while some of the very companies involved in the engineering and production of complicated equipment sprawled along the banks of polluted rivers.  The workers who built the fantastically complex machinery of space travel and moon exploration daily breathe our polluted air.

The end of air and water pollution is a technological problem.  That problem and its many sub-problems can be solved even as were the multitude of problems concerned with putting men on the moon.

Given a team approach of the magnitude of the space program; given leadership of the ability of the men who organized that program; given money as liberally as it has been devoted to the space program, there is no reason why we cannot achieve as great a victory over the product of our own environmental mistakes as we have achieved in projecting man and his machines beyond that environment.

Environmental improvement should now be given the same range of creative thinking, the same range of technical priority, the same or greater range of financial integrity as has the space program.

All of the gains which have been registered through the success to date of the exploration of space and its concomitant technological accomplishments will be as nothing if we permit the pace of environmental deterioration to continue as it has been going.

Kenneth Webb in 1942

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for these words and memory.

    Your grandfather had a wonderful face, too.

    ReplyDelete