This morning we landed in Baltimore and boarded a train for Washington, DC. A trip to our nation's capital is a first, although it had been on the to-do list for a while. We flew a row behind an elderly couple donning 2012 Little League World Series t-shirts, on their way to watch that afternoon's game where Tennessee's Goodlettsville All Stars were to take on California for the US crown. (They would win in dramatic fashion.)
Once at Union Station, we stopped for a bit to figure out our next move. The city seems a little quieter than I expected, likely because its most notable residents are out on the campaign trail or heading to the party conventions in Florida and North Carolina.
My phone buzzed with a news alert that Neil Armstrong had died. Given the accomplishments of and loss within the American space program in the last month, -- a Mars rover landing straight out of science fiction and the death of Sally Ride, the first woman in space -- it seemed oddly poetic that the field's most recognized name would join the heavens he once explored.
He had two significant career accomplishments that the papers highlighted. Aside from being the first human to walk on any other celestial body, let alone the moon, he also calmly piloted one of the Gemini missions after a near-disastrous failure of one of the craft's thrusters. On that same mission, he co-piloted the first ever docking between two spacecraft in orbit. History would have been remarkably different had he not salvaged that mission prior to the lunar landing.
I told Samantha that it is truly astonishing what was accomplished in the 1960s. The technology was crude by today's standards, and calling it "dangerous" is like saying that riding a rodeo bull is "a little bumpy." But there they were -- a generation of men and women who risked their lives for the next four decades to further our understanding of the heavens. And Neil Armstrong is at the head of that class.
For his part, Armstrong never reveled in the spotlight. Quite the opposite. He viewed his part of history as nothing more than the few words of a chapter written by hundreds of other people - engineers, scientists and mission control staff. He saw himself as an Eagle Scout from Ohio with a love for aviation that had just been afforded an amazing opportunity. But for the millions of people who watched the events of 1969 unfold, his hop down a ladder onto a cold and dusty landscape capped off a defining decade in American history, and changed what all of humanity thought when they looked up in the night sky.
We made our way down Pennsylvania Avenue and in front The Newseum. Given our journalism backgrounds, we had to go inside. I was amazed by how quickly the exhibits were updated to reflect current events -- I suppose I shouldn't be given the subject matter. Definitely worth a look if you have never been.