It’s the 40th anniversary of man landing on the moon.
You celebrate this if you’re A. old enough to remember it, and B. not one of those conspiracy theorist’s who thinks the whole thing was filmed in Nixon’s garage.
Ah yes, the other moonwalk, as history of today would record it.
It was 1969, and just when it seemed like all things were possible, all things were possible.
The spectacular event which even brought a “whoopee” from the late-great Walter Cronkite — a master at objectivity — capped a decade of turmoil and social unrest.
In just a month those three days of peace, love and understanding known as Woodstock would bring America back down to earth to the fact that the 1960s were out of this world.
In the early 1960s, President Kennedy challenged Americans to put a man on the moon “and return him safely” by the end of the decade.
Now that’s vision. Especially since the space program was just in its infancy at the time JFK inspired the nation with his imagination.
We’re still looking for a leader like that.
President Obama, who was about 8 years old when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the other guy, whose name always escapes everyone, went to the moon, is the transformational president that Kennedy was — but the similarities end there with the two men.
The 1960s started off with the promise of JFK, took a decidedly dangerous and divisive turn after his assassination with the Vietnam War, gained momentum with the civil rights movement, went off course with the murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, and ended on a high note. A sky high note.
The decade ended where it began, with promise of a new frontier.
Of course, the space program got boring with the public over the next couple years until the near-disaster of Apollo 13 grabbed the national spotlight.
But the moon landing of 1969 would never be matched.
It’s one of those events that can’t be retold on film — the “successful failure” that was Apollo 13 made for great movie fodder — even with those who knew the outcome.
In the 1960s when the Mercury program was at its most influential, kids wanted to be astronauts.
That didn’t fly anymore once the music of the decade became so dominant and those same kids, now teens, moved to a different drummer.
The music, think about it: Motown, Bob Dylan, the British invasion with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and, ‘lest we forget, the reemergence of Elvis.
Through it all, music was the cement that solidified the decade.
It breathed new life into America whenever one of our heroes were suddenly taken from us.
It seemed like someone new emerged every week on the music scene.
You couldn’t keep up with the changing tides, so you just went with the flow.
The music of the decade wasn’t summed up at Woodstock as much as was “a generation lost in space,” as Don McLean put it in his anthem “American Pie.”
Woodstock was the young generation’s response to the violence of the previous year at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
Because of that outrage, Richard Nixon got elected president.
So the young people just said, “hell with it, let’s party.”
At once there was a celebration of life on earth as seen in 1969, and getting away from it all by leaving the planet.
Woodstock and the man on the moon will forever be united.
Both of these events occuring in the same year.
Two such magnificent and entirely different masterpieces didn’t occur in the same decades that followed.
For a decade that had seen it all, there was still room for an encore.