Pete Conrad on
the moon, November 1969. Photo: NASA
I was three years old in 1969, and while my mother says that I
watched the first moon landing along with the rest of the world,
I don't remember a thing about it. I'm not sure if I watched the
second landing, but my recollections are pretty much the same.
"Whoopee!" Conrad said as he stepped onto the lunar
surface. How can you not like that? I wish all of today's
explorers had that sense of fun.
Conrad's death has left me with the a sense of unease that as
usual is difficult to describe. The thought of going to the moon
and returning safely to the Earth is such a mind numbing
difficult thing to imagine. There's the cost. There's the
tremendous resources and support team required to develop the
technology and run the mission. There's the years of training.
All in all, the journey is so unlikely that it's hard to imagine
it will ever be repeated. And so when someone who has actually
been there dies, it feels as if something very precious is lost
How is it that the Apollo astronauts are not --
"celebrities" is the wrong word, and "heroes"
is too jingoistic -- why are they not cherished? Here are people
who have witnessed first hand things that almost no one else will
see in this lifetime, and yet are they sought out for their
perspective? Perhaps they gave their thoughts 30 years ago and
would just like to get on with their lives. But still -- these
people whose names are in history books are still alive and
articulate. We should be eager to listen.
Conrad died from injuries following of a motorcycle accident
on July 8, 1999. He was 69.