Everyone old enough to have witnessed on television the moon landing on July 20, 1969, will never forget it. The next day the New York Times used, I believe for the first time, war type to announce the news. It has used that size type only a few times since (Nixon’s resignation, Clinton’s impeachment, 9/11).
I was 25 that year and watched the landing with my grandfather, who was then 87. Ever the historian, I was deeply aware of the changes he had seen in his lifetime. Born in 1881 into a world of gas light and horses, a world without movies or even amateur still photography, without telephones or phonographs (although both had been invented), it was a world where Chester Arthur was president and Queen Victoria’s reign had twenty years to run. Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon had been published only 16 years earlier and its astronauts had used a giant cannon to get to the moon (the g forces would have killed them instantly on take off). The back of the moon was the very epitome of the unknowable.