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 Remember 60 Years Ago

Where were you in ’62? If you are an early-years or mid-generation boomer, then you probably have memories of August, 1962. Mister Boomer remembers brightly-colored summer clothes and a hint of foreboding in the air that back-to-school time was drawing near.

See if you recall these facts and events:

• John Kennedy was President of the United States.
• The month began with the death of Marilyn Monroe, from a fatal overdose of medication.
• The Soviet Union conducted the second largest nuclear test in history by exploding a 40-megaton hydrogen bomb.
• Patsy Cline released her final album, Sentimentally Yours. She died in a plane crash in March of 1963.
• Herbert Hoover was present to dedicate and open The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, in West Branch, Iowa. Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, was celebrating his 88th birthday.
• The Soviet Union leapfrogged past the U.S. space program by launching two manned spacecrafts into orbit back to back. Volstak 3 was launched on August 11, 1962, and Volstak 4 launched one day later. The plan for the two spacecraft was to have parallel orbits, allowing them to establish radio contact until their return to Earth on August 15. At their closest point, the two spacecraft were just over 3 miles apart. The effects of space on the cosmonauts’ health was part of the main mission.

• Pete Best was fired as the drummer of The Beatles, on August 16. He was replaced by Ringo Starr, making his first appearance as a Beatle two days later.

• John Lennon married Cynthia Powell in a secret ceremony in Liverpool.
• Mariner 2, the first successful space probe launched to another planet, was launched by NASA on August 27. It reached Venus on December 14, 1962. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had previously failed attempts at missions to Venus.
• On Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, the number one hits of August 1962 were Roses Are Red (My Love) by Bobby Vinton and Breaking Up Is Hard to Do by Neil Sedaka. Familiar names in the Top 10 that month included Pat Boone (Speedy Gonzales), The Orlons (The Wah Watsusi), Ray Charles (I Can’t Stop Loving You), Ray Stevens (Ahab, the Arab) and Little Eva (The Loco-motion).

Mister Boomer recalls the death of Marilyn Monroe as it was reported on TV. He also remembers hearing Neil Sedaka’s and the other songs of August 1962 playing on his transistor radio. His mother favored Bobby Vinton’s Red Roses (For a Blue Lady), which is why Mister B has that 45 in his collection now. Though an avid fan of the Space Race early on, Mister B can’t say he remembers anything about the Volstak 3 & 4 missions.

How about you, boomers? What do you remember about August 1962?