July 20, 1969 ~ First Manned Moon Landing
Many readers of this blog were but twinkles in their parents eyes when Neil Armstrong took that one small step for (a) man, and even among those who vividly recall watching man's first foray onto an extraterrestrial body, few remember that our Long Island played a vital role in putting us on the moon.
It was Long Island based Grumman Corportation, after all, that made lunar exploration a matter of science fact, developing and building that odd-looking, bug-like Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM.
Aside from making it possible to land man on the moon during four Apollo missions -- and returning him safely to Earth -- LEM served as a lifeboat for the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13, making Grumman, and our Long Island, an historic and integral part of the exploration of both space and human endurance.
Grumman, as Long Islanders knew it in the 60s, is no longer an economic force here, the site from which F-14 Tomcats once came off the line now home to more mundane ventures, like Goya Foods, Inc. And the landscape of suburbia is as different today as the Sea of Tranquility is from the Long Island Sound.
Still, if one listens very carefully, you can almost hear Walter Conkrite as he narrates the first lunar landing, as he describes the starkness of the lunar surface, as the LEM kicks up dust at four feet, three feet, two feet from the moon's surface.
Yes, some 37 years have passed since a "giant leap for mankind" was taken on that desolate, pot-marked plain. We wonder, sometimes, as to the strides mankind has made since that day -- a day that, in the minds of many, seemed to bring the whole world together, every eye glued to a television set, and every dream heaven-bound, constrained only by the limits of our own imaginations.