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"We just decided to go."

Published Thursday, July 20, 2023 @ 12:11 AM EDT
Jul 20 2023

As a teenager, I knew the moon landing was something spectacular because I had rarely seen Walter Cronkite rendered nearly speechless.

I don't think younger people can appreciate the impact Cronkite had in the country. Prior to his retirement in 1981, he was the news. Sure, the ABC and NBC networks had their own news broadcasts, but I always considered them to be secondary sources reinforcing Cronkite's primary coverage. At least in my house, at news time my grandparents always made certain the station was tuned to the local CBS affiliate, KDKA-TV2. (I still prefer KDKA, but- like most local news broadcasts- it's just a shadow of its former glory).

Cronkite was frequently cited as the most trusted man in America. At that time, prior to 24/7 cable news and the internet, everyone in the United States shared a more or less a singular existence. When Uncle Walter told you something, you knew it was true. "Fake news" was an unknown term. Television network news operations were viewed by their corporate bosses as a public trust, not a profit center.

That glorious Sunday afternoon 54 years ago was a time of optimism and enthusiasm. When Kennedy made his May 25, 1962 Congressional speech announcing the moon landing goal, NASA had no idea how to get there. Indeed, at that time only four Americans had even been launched into space, in tiny one-man Mercury capsules- and only two of those actually achieved orbit.

Yet in only seven years, one month and 26 days, Americans- 400,000 of them, working mostly in private businesses under NASA's direction- made it happen on July 20, 1969. Ideologically, it proved that the American capitalist system was superior. Spiritually, it proved the America could achieve almost anything if it had the will to accept the challenge.

It's that attitude I miss the most. As astronaut and Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell observed, "From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go."

Our unsolvable problems are not unsolvable. We just have to decide to solve them.

Categories: Apollo 11, James Lovell, Jim Lovell, NASA, Walter Cronkite


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