I wasn't born at the time Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. But that event will shape the achievements of my generation as much (if not more so) than those who watched it live on TV.
If you haven't had a chance yet, I'd like to encourage you to visit the Apollo Forum on EE Times.com. Not only is it beautifully done, it is jam-packed with fascinating posts from people who recall exactly where they were 40 years ago when man first landed on the moon. It's really interesting to see the impact that this event had on people who became (or already were) engineers.
Now for a confession: I have not yet contributed to the forum. I was not yet born at the time of Apollo 11. When Neil Armstrong took "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," I was not yet a twinkle in my parents' eyes.
But I've been thinking about it, and I believe there is still room for people who, like me, were either not yet born or were too young to recall man's first moon landing.
The idea that I keep turning over in my mind is this: what was for all alive at the time a watershed event was part of the prologue to my own life. This event that for so many broadened the definition of what was possible had already been checked off by the time I got here.
So what? Well, it seems to me that this event has had a profound impact on my generation, even if we obviously can't recall watching it in the family living room. We came of age knowing that this feat had been accomplished, and I believe that it emboldened us from the get go to think big.
Some may argue that this achievement and others like it spoiled us, and/or made us complacent. We didn't live through the daily events of this quest; much less contribute anything to make the achievement possible.
Fair enough. But I will argue that the big achievements of my generation, the latter period of Generation X, are still to come. Our Eagle has not yet landed. Regardless of what those achievements may bebreakthroughs in alternative energy, a cure for cancer, putting a man on Mars, achieving lasting peacethey will be inspired in some way by the Apollo moon landings.
Armstrong's leap for mankind was made as much for those who came after him as much as those who saw it live on TV. Those thousands of men and women who made it possible have and will make possible a great many more things through the force of example and precedent.
Those of us born after Apollo 11 have never lived in a world that was defined by the boundaries of earth's atmosphere. I hope we can one day claim achievements worthy of such a boundless existence.
(You thought I was going to say something about reaching for the stars, didn't you?)