Boomers Went To the Moon and Back

Boomers dreamt of the Moon throughout their youth … popular music is filled with Moon references. It is safe to say once President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge to U.S. scientists in 1961 — to safely land men on the Moon and bring them back to Earth within the decade — boomers were entranced.

Boomers probably did not realize that when Kennedy set out his challenge that the US and USSR were already deeply engaged in the Space Race to the Moon. In fact, when Kennedy spoke, the US had not yet had a successful unmanned mission to the Moon. The USSR had beaten the US with the first satellite launch (1957); first spacecraft to flyby the Moon (1959); first pictures of the farside of the Moon (1959); first man in space (1961); and first woman in space (1963).

During the early to mid-60s, the two countries failed on as many missions as were successful. The US got back in the Moon race with Ranger 7 (July 28, 1964), which intentionally crashed into the Moon and provided the first close-up pictures.

On February 3, 1966, the Soviets had accomplished the first soft landing on the Moon, sending back the first pictures from the surface. The US would need to catch up in a big way. The US countered with its first soft landing on the Moon with Surveyor 1 (May 30, 1966), sending back its own pictures from the surface. Over the next two years, both countries launched additional missions to orbit the Moon and map the surface, especially for scoping out possible landing spots.

The US gained the upper hand with Apollo 8 (December 24, 1968) when astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders became the first humans to orbit the Moon. After looping it ten times, they returned safely to Earth.

Finally, as every boomer remembers, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed safely on the Moon. Neil Armstrong stepped out on the surface, uttering his historic phrase, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin would follow Armstrong to walk on the surface.

One year later, Apollo 12 landed on the Moon (November 17, 1969). Apollo 16 (April 16, 1972) landed another set of astronauts, and Apollo 17 (December 10, 1972) brought the first scientist to walk on the Moon. All told, in the four years of Apollo missions, the US saw 12 men step onto the surface of the Moon. There has not been a human walking on the surface since.

Now, after 40 years, the US is poised to return to the moon with the Artemis program. In Greek mythology, Artemis was Apollo’s sister. Artemis 1, an unmanned spacecraft, is intended to circle the Moon and return. As of this writing, the launch of Artemis 1 has been delayed twice for mechanical issues, and currently, delayed because of Hurricane Ian approaching the west coast of Florida.

Artemis 2, planned for May 2024, will once again bring humans to orbit the Moon for the first time since 1972. If all goes well, Artemis 3 will land on the surface in 2025. NASA has announced that the Artemis program will see the first woman and first person of color on the Moon.

Mister Boomer was not aware of the many unmanned missions to the Moon in the 1950s and early ’60s at the time. He began his infatuation with space travel with the manned Gemini missions. Like most boomers — indeed most people — Mister B’s attention span wavered after the original Moon landing. The distractions of his teen years also contributed to his interest away from the additional Moon landings.

How about you, boomers? Has the Artemis program rekindled your interest in space travel? Were you following every landing on the Moon after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s initial walk?

Boomers Benefited from Expanded Consumer Protection

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the phrase caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) was the primary means of consumer protection. Everyone has heard of the snake oil salesmen of that time, and that the original recipe for Coca-Cola contained cocaine. There were few, if any, government regulations on consumer products. In 1905, Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle, exposed the horrific conditions in meat packing facilities. The resulting outrage by the public led Congress to pass the Wiley Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and then twenty years later, to create the Food & Drug Administration to inspect and regulate food safety.

On March 15, 1962, President John F. Kennedy raised questions again about public safety as a topic important to the country’s economy and national interest. In a joint address to Congress, Kennedy talked about a basic Consumer Bill of Rights in which he outlined four principles:

• The right to safety
• The right to be informed
• The right to choose
• The right to be heard

Part of his speech read:

Two-thirds of all spending in the economy is by consumers. But they are the only important group in the economy who are not effectively organized, whose views are often not heard.

Ever since legislation was enacted in 1872 to protect the consumer from frauds involving use of the U.S. mail, the Congress and Executive Branch have been increasingly aware of their responsibility to make certain that our Nation’s economy fairly and adequately serves consumers’ interests.

If consumers are offered inferior products, if prices are exorbitant, if drugs are unsafe or worthless, if the consumer is unable to choose on an informed basis, then his dollar is wasted, his health and safety may be threatened, and the national interest suffers.

Some of the legislation that arose from Kennedy’s notes to Congress was focused on the simple idea that government can further protect consumers by making more information available. Hence, the result was the beginning of accurate labeling requirements that we know as commonplace today. Subsequent bipartisan debate in Congress talked about needing drug companies to prove the efficacy of drug claims. Also mentioned as industries in which fraudulent claims were hurting consumers were the cosmetics industry, food (especially the inadequacy of meat factory inspections and the claims of dietary foods), and used cars. It’s hard to believe in our current environment that there were no laws prohibiting companies from including known carcinogenic ingredients in their consumer products prior to the 1960s. Congress also expressed concern about the lack of educational opportunities for consumers in the burgeoning TV industry, and looked to increase protections on competition and competitive pricing.

The roots of all the consumer protections we take for granted today can be traced to the boomer era of the 1960s and ’70s. That era’s legislation paved the way for further consumer protections that boomers remember, including seatbelts in cars. Then, as now, while the vast majority of Americans could agree on the principle of car safety, there was disagreement on how that could be achieved. Nonetheless, the data since the 1960s is clear that tens if not hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved since the laws requiring seatbelts were enacted. Likewise for food safety, and more.

Kennedy’s basic four principles can be seen in effect in today’s consumer protections from deceptive advertising, unfair business practices, fraud and unsafe products.

What do you recall of the days when there was little in the way of informative food labeling, wild advertising claims went unchecked, and cars did not have seatbelts, boomers?