Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
Content copyright © 1995 - 2013 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk
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I don't recall what I was doing when JFK was shot.
However, I do recall what I was doing when Apollo 11 landed and later, when Neil Armstrong took man's first step on the moon.
I was a space-mad teenager who heard those immortal words "one small step..." on my "6 transistor radio" in the back of a woodwork classroom.
This radio was not an inexpensive device back then and I was lucky enough to have been given it for my birthday just a few months earlier.
In eager anticipation of the first manned landing on the moon, I'd been saving a special set of batteries which had been carefully inserted just an hour or so before the projected touch-down time.
Normally it was not permitted for students to bring radios to school but on this special day, that rule was overlooked -- possibly out of necessity, since none of our classrooms had any kind of multi-media gear and the school PA system was never working properly.
Let's step forward a little more than 43 years to yesterday evening around 5:20pm NZST.
Once again I was anxiously waiting for the success or failure of an extraterrestrial craft that was about to touch down (or crash) on another body within our solar system.
This time however, the pace at which our technology has advanced was obvious.
My "6 transistor radio" has been replaced by an Intel processor with hundreds of millions of transistors.
Instead of a scratchy AM reception, I was enjoying a live video stream from JPL which gave me a full-screen picture of SD TV quality -- directly from Pasadena California.
The quality of the image and audio was so good that I swear it was almost like "being there" yourself. The coverage of the control-room was brilliant and you soon got to recognise the faces and share the tension building as the "seven minutes of terror" began.
What surprised me perhaps more than anything was that the stream peaked at just over 260,000 viewers. Eh?
Surely there were more than a quarter of a million Net users who were interested enough to log on and watch history unfold?
Now I'm the kind of guy who doesn't cry in movies and tend to keep my emotions to myself most of the time. When confirmation of a safe touchdown was received, the magnitude of this achievement might be best confirmed by the fact that I let out a rousing cheer -- to the extent that it startled my wife who was elsewhere in the house.
What a buzz -- and how wonderfully all the technology worked.
To add gilding to the lilly, the first pictures came down within a few short minutes and showed exactly what we should have expected from a perfect landing.
I had a smile so wide I feared it would bisect my entire head.
Of course things started to go downhill when, a little later, the President's space advisor began waving the US flag and rambling on about how great their country is, not only in the area of space exploration but also homeland security... bla bla bla. At that point I switched off and my mood was somewhat lowered as I realised that only a politician could tarnish such a monumental success.
So now we embark on a period of new discovery and exploration on the Martian surface.
Woohoo.. bring it on!
Where were you when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and what were you doing when Armstrong took his first step?
Did you get a real buzz from the Curiosity landing -- or am I just a hopeless space geek?
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Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.