Monday, August 27, 2012

Great step

Arriving back at Auckland Airport yesterday, as we taxied off the runway I saw that the huge flag beyond the buildings was at half-mast, and assumed it was because Neil Armstrong has died. It certainly should be. What an achievement that was - not just Armstrong's of course, but of a huge team of people working with what now seem ludicrously low-tech tools. To have landed a man on the moon - and, I think, even more importantly, to have got him home again afterwards - is the most amazing, incredible and inspiring achievement. And then to have done it again and again, and developed the Shuttle, and gone on to put a golf cart on Mars recently - well done, NASA, really.

I liked that Armstrong was so modest. If he'd been self-aggrandising, it would have taken a bit of the shine off the achievement - though really, if anyone should be allowed to puff themselves up, it's the first man on the moon. I remember when it happened: it was during the school day and the entire school population, 1100 girls plus staff, were crammed into the Hall, below, sitting on the floor because there was no room for the benches. And we craned to see a single, regular-size TV set up on the stage. How equally low-tech that seems too - hard to imagine now when every classroom has an interactive whiteboard, internet connection and a projector.

To be brutally honest, it was a long session, and uncomfortable on the hard floor, and the pictures, even for those lucky to be near the front, were fuzzy and unclear, so despite ringing calls from the stage to urge us to remember this historic moment, there was rather more fidgeting and talking than there should have been and, quite frankly, relief when we were released again afterwards. But honour to the achievement, and to Neil Armstrong. Great stuff.

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