With the arrival of the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, on July 20, 2019, many people have been reviewing old footage and books about the event. I came across a book that caught my eye on Audible. The book, The Man Who Knew The Way To The Moon, by Todd Zwillich wasn’t exactly about the moon landing, but rather how it became possible. The book begins with Russia beating the United States to the punch when they sent a man Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, into space on April 12, 1961. As short as the flight was…just 89 minutes…it was still an embarrassment to the United States who felt they should have been first.
In answer to the Soviet space flight, President Kennedy challenged NASA to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. NASA sort of panicked. Yes, they had been thinking about a moon landing…and some remote point down the road, but they were nowhere near ready to go them by the end of the decade. Nevertheless, they began to explore ideas to make it happen. One of those people who had been considering a way to make the landing possible. By this time, no one doubted the ability to go into space, and to safely return to earth. Landing on the moon was a different story.
The widely accepted method of landing on the moon was to have the original rocket back onto the moon, carrying enough fuel to take off again and return to Earth. A man named John Houbolt thought that was…well, simply impossible. Now, I’m no aeronautical engineer, like Houbolt was, and maybe I have the advantage of knowing about the past space exploration victories, but when I think about three astronauts backing a 90 foot high, fully fueled rocket onto the moon…all I can say is, “That’s ludicrous!!” People often say that an idea doesn’t take a rocket scientist, and it this case, maybe it shouldn’t be a rocket scientist, but rather an aeronautical engineer.
John Houbolt, kept saying and trying to be heard, that it wouldn’t work, but he had a plan that would…Lunar Orbit Rendezvous or LOR. In Houbolt’s design, a smaller lunar module would land on the moon while the command module waited above. Then the Lunar module would take of and dock with the command module for the trip back to Earth. It is the way we know did work, because we have the advantage of time, but the scientists and engineers at NASA would not listen. One man, Max Faget, an immigrant from British Honduras, who designed the Mercury module, actually stood up at a meeting where Houbolt was presenting his idea, and yelled at the group, saying, “His figures lie! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Houbolt was horribly humiliated, and he never forgot the incident. He didn’t let it stop him either. In the end, as Faget spent many hours trying desperately to make his own figures work, so that a rocket could back onto the moon, he finally had to admit defeat. He called John Houbolt, and conceded the lunar landing design to Houbolt’s design, which was, as we all know, completely successful, because after all, his figures did not lie, and he did know what he was talking about. It was a great moment in history, and in Houbolt’s life, except for the fact that no one knew that the successful landing was his design. While the Lunar landing, 50 years ago was an amazing accomplishment, I find it quite sad that it took so many years for the world to know about how one man’s refusal to give up, actually made Lunar landing possible. We owe John Houbolt a great debt of gratitude, and it is more than 50 years overdue. Now that’s ludicrous!!
Veteran’s Day is a day about sacrifice and honor, duty and dedication, war and peace, but the day cannot pass for me without thoughts of my dad, and how much I miss him. I know I am not alone in these thoughts, because my mom and sisters also miss him, as well as the rest of our family. Still, no one who has lost a loved one who was a veteran, whether to war or after, can pass this day without thoughts of their loved ones. I think of my Grandpa Byer, my uncles Ted Byer, Cliff Byer, Larry Byer, Jim Wolfe, and my cousin, Larry Wolfe…all gone now, but not lost in war, thankfully. I think of those who, in World War II, couldn’t serve in combat, and so they served at home in the shipyards as builders and Rosie the Riveters, like my Aunt Ruth, Aunt Laura, and Uncle Bill, who couldn’t go because of a hernia and flat feet. And I think of the loved ones…too many to list here…who have fought and returned, and those who continue to fight to secure our nation, and stop terrorist acts all over the globe.
Theirs is a sacrifice beyond measure, a debt we cannot repay. Every day of their service they work, without knowing if they will return to their loved ones, or if this will be the day that a bullet, rocket, or bomb will have their name on it. They go to work knowing fear, as if it was their closest friend, and yet knowing that it is no friend at all. They have to bite back that fear and do their job…because it is needed…they are needed…because without them we are a nation unprotected. Most of us go to bed at night, secure in what the next day will bring, because we live in a nation where freedom belongs to everyone. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is not free. Over the years, our nation has lost so many young people to war. They were really our hope for the future. They were people full of promise. People with plans and dreams…all gone now.
War is a horrible thing, and none of us really want to engage in it. Still, evil exists out there, and it does its very best to reek havoc upon the world. If we do nothing, many innocent people will die. And so God created soldiers. He knew that they would have to be people of honor and dedication, with a strong sense of duty and love for their fellow man. They would have to be people of courage and bravery…able to bite back the fear that dwells all around them. God knew the kind of people they would have to be…Heroes. And that is what every veteran is, was, and always will be…a hero. Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor those who have given so much to keep us free. Thank you all for your great service. God bless you…everyone of you.
Today was my grandson, Josh’s last regular track meet. He has enjoyed track so much, and he is very good at it. He has long legs and they are very strong. Josh had entered the 400 Meter Run, the 4 X 100 Meter Relay, and the 200 Meter Run. The day was beautiful, after a cool, rainy start. The meet was running very smoothly, and the time for Josh’s first race, the 400 Meter Run, quickly arrived. This was a race we all felt Josh would do well in, because he had always seemed to need a little distance to get up to speed.
Josh was to run in the outside lane…the one that toward the end, can be quickly caught up to by the inside lane. The gun sounded, and it was very clear to me that Josh got a great start in this race. There was no hesitation at the sound of the gun…just a smooth take off. I was excited by that in itself, because as we all know, the take off is very important.
Around the first turn, Josh was still in the lead…in fact he was quickly pulling away from the other runners. Then he got to that point…at about 100 meters, where he gets up to speed. At that point, he took off like a rocket. People around his mom, my daughter, Corrie started saying, “Look at that kid!!! Look at him!!” They were stunned. And we…were, totally hyper with excitement!!
Josh has been running in Middle School Track for two years now, and while he placed quite well in the races, he had not taken first place yet. We wanted it for him so badly. He really, really wanted it. We knew he had it in him. And this race just might be that race.
The race continued like that right up to the end. I could hardly breathe, I was just so excited. Here was my grandson, so far out ahead of the rest of the runners that they weren’t even in sight of him. Everyone was so excited!! The man standing next to my daughter, Corrie asked, “Which runner is yours?” Corrie proudly exclaimed, “The one in first!!” The man said, “Wow!!” She was so proud!! We all were!!
The pictures Josh’s brother, my grandson Chris took, said it all. There are no other runners in the picture. That is because Josh never lost the lead. He was the only runner in the pictures, because he had left all the others in the dust!! He was like a rocket, and they simply couldn’t compete with that. I’m so proud of my grandson, Josh’s first 1st place win…and in a tough, long race…the 400 Meter Run!! Josh ran the race in 1.07 seconds. Way to go Josh!! I’m so proud of you!!