Friday, August 31, 2012

Once in a Blue Moon, Literally

Tonight's "blue moon" coincides with a private memorial service for Neil Armstrong, the first human being to stand
on the moon's surface. I intend to salute him by having one ... a Blue Moon that is.

As everyone knows, a blue moon occurs when there’s a second full moon in one calendar month.

Neil Armstrong at work
There is one tonight.

It won’t happen again until July 2015.

The full moon cycle is 29.5 days so a blue moon is uncommon and has come to mean something rare.

Associated Press informs us, just in case we were confused: "The moon actually won’t be colored blue."


Anyway, what makes this one a once-in-a-lifetime event is that it coincides with a private funeral service for Neil Armstrong, the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon.

He died last Saturday in Ohio at age 82 and it is thanks to him that "The Eagle has landed" and "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" are now part of our national lexicon and our national identity.

OK, maybe I'll have more than one.

Headline writers cleverer than me, are calling it everything from a "cosmic wink," to a slightly more serious "cosmological salute."

Armstrong's family has suggested paying tribute to him by looking at the moon and giving the astronaut a wink.

So that's kind of neat.

Personally, I intend to salute a man who must have been fearless, but who described his place in history as just "a job," with something even more appropriate -- one of my favorite Belgian white beers, the appropriately named "Blue Moon."

I think they may have a special fall beer out already.

For those of you who might not have been around when Armstrong made history, this from the New York Times obituary:
Armstrong gave us this headlin
 A quiet, private man, at heart an engineer and crack test pilot, Mr. Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969, as the commander of the Apollo 11 spacecraft on the mission that culminated the Soviet-American space race in the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy had committed the nation “to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” It was done with more than five months to spare. 
 On that day, Mr. Armstrong and his co-pilot, Col. Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., known as Buzz, steered their lunar landing craft, Eagle, to a level, rock-strewn plain near the southwestern shore of the Sea of Tranquillity. It was touch and go the last minute or two, with computer alarms sounding and fuel running low. But they made it. 

“Houston, Tranquillity Base here,” Mr. Armstrong radioed to mission control. “The Eagle has landed.” 

“Roger, Tranquillity,” mission control replied. “We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”  

Again with the blue. It seems to be a theme when it comes to Mr. Armstrong.
In looking up information about this excellent fellow, I came across this interesting item at a site called "Business Insider."
An insurance cover. Can you imagine? We asked them to fly to
the freakin' moon, to sit on top of a giant pile of jet fuel,
and we didn't even give them life insurance?
 When Neil Armstrong and the rest of the crew of Apollo 11 piled atop that huge rocket packed full of fuel in 1969 they were under no illusions that it may have been the last thing they ever did. Unfortunately, neither was anyone who might have insured their lives, and helped provide security for the astronauts families in case they didn't come home.
Back then astronaut captains made about $17,000 a year, NPR reports and a life insurance policy for Neil Armstrong would have run about $50,000 a year, or more than $300,000 in 2012 dollars.

Because some guys from the prior Apollo missions had gotten colds, and mild bouts of queasiness on their trips, NASA had implemented a quarantine procedure before liftoffs.

So about a month before they were set to go: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin were locked into a Plexiglas room together and got busy providing for their families the only way the could — they signed hundreds of autographs.

So thanks for going to the moon for us and all.
Shouldn't be too dangerous.
Sorry we can't give you any life insurance....
In what would become a common practice, the guys signed their names on envelopes emblazoned with various space related images. The 'covers' would, of course, become intensely valuable should the trio perish on the mission. There now often referred to as " Apollo Insurance Covers."

And to ensure the covers would hold maximum value, the crew put stamps on them, and sent them in a package to a friend, who dumped them all in the mail so they would be postmarked July 16, 1969 — the day of the mission's success — or it's failure.

Luckily, it went off without a hitch and one of those envelopes today is valued at about $5,000.

So here's to you Neil Armstrong, you and your kind; people who are willing to risk everything not just to be first, but to advance mankind's knowledge; who make voyages of discovery and who inspire generations afterward with your daring and your grit.

This one's for you.

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