Like many of you, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Growing up, Neil Armstrong was my hero.
I'm not sure where my great fascination with space started. It could have been going over to my friends house, Jamie S. We spent all day gluing together and building model rockets from Gemini to Apollo. Or it might have been when I enrolled in a program called 'Junior Engineers' at the age of 8. We learned to build everything from transistor radios to rockets that actually made it off the ground.
All I knew is whenever there was a televised rocket launch, I was glued to the TV Set. From the powerful blast-offs to the splashdowns at sea, I was hooked.
When I learned that all systems were go to finally land on the Moon - I read everything about the mission, the mechanics, the process. How were they going to do this?. It seemed so complicated at the time.
Amazing how far technology had come. So as the date approached, I took a chance. I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a letter to Neil Armstrong. I was seriously determined to catch a ride on a future Apollo Mission. I figure if they could send chimps into orbit, why not a young boy.
I remember checking the mailbox everyday after I wrote that letter. Than about a month before the scheduled launch of Apollo 11, my letter was answered. A letter addressed to me from NASA arrived at my home.
Like most kids my age at the time, we used to collect patches and stickers. I had asked for some patches and stuff from NASA. They sent me those patches and stickers, but I was more surprised by the attached letter. It was from Neil A. Armstrong. He had taken the time to type and sign a personal note to me and thanked me for showing in his words "a keen interest in our activities".
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and took that first step, I was watching. Somehow I also felt connected like he knew other's like me one day wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Well, I never pursued my early dream. But I kept the letter. Years later, while working at WFAA, a Dallas, Texas TV Station, Buzz Aldrin came on the show for an interview. I just happened to have Neil Armstrong's letter in my desk. Buzz agreed to sign it.
Now, years later I have the autographs of the first two people ever to step foot on the Lunar Surface. I never framed them. I like to pull them out of the envelope from time to time and relive that moment of excitement when I first opened it when I was a little boy.
If you would like to see the entire video I did for the California of the Past - A Digital Story Telling Station - CLICK HERE. or go to the bottom of this page and watch the highlights of the landing as told by Walter Cronkite.