Because of the nature of television, both then in 1969 and now a viewer can be caught up in an event and it becomes part of them, not just some remote experience that you are viewing but an event that you experience.
With the launch of Apollo 11 pretty much everything in my life had to take a seat on the sidelines. As it turned out the launch and tense reports as the Columbia ship and the lunar lander "Eagle" made their way between earth orbit and lunar orbit I was able to get to the summer class I was taking at UBC but every minute I could get that week was in front of the television absorbing the words of Walter Cronkite and every expert that could be found to keep the dialogue going.
The Polaroid at the top of this page was one of two I took as Apollo 11 closed in on the moon with the voice of back up commander James Lovell communicating with the crew aboard and keeping the news media up to date.
Everyone on this planet and certainly those in Vancouver were just like me, aware that history was being made. Humanity was taking a step beyond this planet and reaching out to moon we all could see in the sky above us each night.
The whole Apollo programme had prepared not just the three aboard that flight but the world as a whole was up to speed on the step by step process. Launch into earth orbit, dock with the upper stage of the rocket, retrieve the lunar lander, leave orbit on a tricky trajectory to intercept a lunar orbit. One man, Collins, stays in orbit above the mood, Armstrong and Aldrin descent out of orbit to find a smooth place to land. That was the crisis and high point of the mission and with positive results "The eagle has landed" cheers in every house hold and a tear in Cronkite's eye. Then the step onto the surface, pick up some samples and ascend back into orbit to dock with the command module, drop off the lander, leave orbit on a trajectory for earth orbit, make the trip, disconnect from the command module and re-enter earth's atmosphere in Columbia.
At any step thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of things could have gone wrong but the complex process worked and we earthlings were electronic witnesses to this event that is now a full forty years old.
I actually have Super8 film footage of the landing, blurry and shaky but it was my souvenir of a first for humans. Unfortunately, I am unable to show you that footage, it isn't very good and translating Super8 into video is not available to me today. The bad part of my video of course is that it was silent. The landing and then the first step onto the surface was not silent but was filled with the sounds of space, the quaint signal beep, the static after voice transmission and the sound of one's own heart racing with excitement.
The unique world circumstances that lead the United States to fund such a project, the geopolitical climate in which it occurred have not been present since and I doubt if any similar conquest will happen in what remains of my lifetime. This was a shining hour for people, not just Americans but all people who feel that they were is some infinitesimal way a part of an event that occurred during their lives. Essays by me and many many others have said over and over why we as a species need to leave this planet and that has not changed. Forty years ago a beginning was made, so we know it is possible, one day life on this planet will most certainly end and we all want something of what we are, to go on into the far distant future and that will have to be off of this planet. That first step has been taken.