By PETTUS READ
The month of July has always been special for me to take in the observation of the moon. No, I’m not involved in some kind of way out there religion or smoke any kind of kooky weeds, but if you have not noticed it, the moon in July is usually extra special. I guess, due to the fact we spend more time outside in the summer we have the opportunity to see it more. Just recently, we had the chance to see the Super Moon, which was a very bright moon for our summertime viewing.
Even as a small boy, I would stretch out on the porch or on a hillside on July nights and gaze at the moon, wondering about what is out there among the stars and that large bright object. Now as an older boy, a much older boy, I still enjoy doing the gazing bit with the moon, even though I know a lot more now than I did back then.
The skies have always been amazing to me. On a particularly cool, crisp fall late afternoon in 1957, my father, brother, grandfather and myself were walking from the dairy barn as we had done numerous times before on my grandfather’s dairy farm after the evening milking. The day had been much like any other, except for this evening we noticed a bright ball of light moving across the western sky as the sun was making its final departure for the day. We all stopped, watching its unusual movement and immediately noticed that it was not an airplane. Instead, it was the Russian satellite known as “Sputnik” and the ushering in of a new day of technology, along with a multitude of scientific developments that would change all of our lives forever. And it all began for me with a chance to see something different in the skies.
Just like I watched the beginning of our country’s race into space as a young child, on the morning of July 21, 2011, at the age of 62, I watched the final landing of the space shuttle, ending an era of takeoffs and landings for the NASA program. I still remember the excitement of John Glenn blasting off into space, the splashdowns in the ocean and watching much of it on black and white TVs at school. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969, and uttered those words which are still the most famous words ever spoken, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” a generation of us knew there was no limit to what we could do if we just put our minds to it. Even though there were those who had doubt and said it was all produced in a movie studio, my generation knew it wasn’t and saw a lot of hope for the future in the space program.
From the NASA program a lot of things have evolved for all of us. The hand-held vacuum cleaner was born from this program, along with more battery-powered gadgets that we no longer can do without. The firefighter’s breathing apparatus used today is a product adapted from life-support systems used in spacesuits. The personal storm warning systems that detect lightning for boaters, golfers and those flying private airplanes came from the space shuttle. We have better sunglasses, improved car crash technology, plane wing-tip designs, freeze-dried meals, baby foods, heart surgery lasers, life support for patients, plant research, better brakes and much more all because of our space program. I, for one, would have never thought that October evening back in 1957, because of a glow in the western sky, that someday its beginning could mean the difference in me having better health or not.
Because of our space program, those of us who monitor our blood pressure each day with home blood pressure kits, have those little units. Independent Science reports that when Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space some 37 years ago, NASA scientists had to invent an automatic measuring device to find out how blasting off affected the astronaut's blood pressure. The design of the unit that they used to monitor Shepard and future astronauts later became the design blood pressure kits were based on once they went mainstream.
Much of the progress we enjoy here on Earth today is because someone somewhere gazed into the skies and wondered what else could be on the horizon of space. I’ll still enjoy my July moons and hopefully there will continue to be other little boys and girls who will also do the same with wonderment about what is over the horizon for the rest of us.
-- Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org