Memorializing moon milestone a must

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Last week my sweet, precious baby girl turned 27.

Once your children become adults their birthdays are not nearly as big a deal as they are in their youth. This one, however, was a milestone – for me. It means I have now been a parent exactly half my life. I certainly don’t feel that old, but according to the fine print on my birth certificate, I am.

That got me thinking about milestones. This year I have been caught up in the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with Apollo 11. I am a NASA/space junky and I’ve been observing 50-year milestones in spaceflight history for several years now. Next up is the Apollo 12 moon landing on Nov. 19. Unfortunately, the subsequent Apollo anniversaries will not receive the same attention as Apollo 11.

I can’t help but think what a major failing it has been to not make the July 20 landing of Apollo 11 a national holiday. Even now, 50 years later, landing on the moon is mankind’s greatest achievement, yet most people couldn’t tell you what year it happened, let alone the date.

It should be a no-brainer for Congress to enact bi-partisan legislation declaring July 20 as National Space Exploration Day. The moon landing represents the accomplishment of 400,000 people working together toward a common goal. It ended millennia of curiosity and speculation about the moon. It was an achievement celebrated around the world; one of the few events in human history to unite people in a way that has never been done before or since.

Landing humans on the moon and returning them safely to Earth is a much greater accomplishment and is deserving of more recognition than the discovery of the Americas or any of the so-called Hallmark holidays. Yet it languishes in obscurity, unheralded by the generations that followed. What a tragedy.

It’s interesting that as a nation we are every bit as divided politically and socially as we were 50 years ago when this one moment in time galvanized us as a people. Even though the moon landing was done by the United States, the whole world looked up and said, “WE did it!” As the plaque left behind by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin says, “We came in peace for all mankind.”

I know Rep. Pete Olson of Congressional District 22 isn’t planning to seek re-election, but what a legacy it would be for him to sponsor legislation that led to the creation of a National Space Exploration Day holiday. His district abuts Johnson Space Center and he is a huge advocate of NASA and the space program, so why not go out with a bang, Pete?

Another reason to favor this action is because NASA is planning to return to the moon in five years and there are many other commercial and international efforts underway to get people back on Luna firma. It could very well turn out that trips to and from our gray neighbor in the sky will become commonplace. I hope they do. With that, however, is the very real possibility of the significance of the first moon voyages being lost to history. If you don’t believe me, let me ask you this: What is the significance of Dec. 17, 1903? (No using Google, that’s cheating!)

That date (but a different year) is significant to me personally, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Dec. 17, 1903, was the day the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane. Today, flying is so commonplace that I doubt a single pilot or passenger even stops to think about the significance of what Orville and Wilbur Wright accomplished and no one celebrates the day. Yet it changed the lives of everyone who has lived since that first flight.

My dear daughter, Heather Southern, her siblings, and everyone else in this great land of ours deserve a reminder of what we are capable of doing when we set aside our differences and focus on what we have in common and can do together.

I know for Heather, turning 27 probably isn’t much of a milestone. It was for me because that’s when I first became a father. As I look ahead to my next personal milestone, I must mark Dec. 17 on the calendar. Although I doubt I’ll be saluting the Wright Brothers, I will be celebrating 20 wonderful years with my wife, Sandy. I love her to the moon and back!

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