Letter to the editor: Miller
October 2, 2012
Let’s build on Armstrong’s legacy
To the Editor:
I enjoyed the recent recollection of time spent with Neil Armstrong who made his final journey off our planet a few weeks ago.
My first contact with Neil was when I was hunkered down over a static-filled short wave radio, sheltered by a metal clad building from a driving blizzard. Deep in the Alaska coastal range our group was listening to the only station available carrying a live report of his landing on the moon, Moscow’s version of Radio Free Europe. We cheered as a heavy Russian accent announced “the Imperialists claim they have landed on the moon.”
Years later I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with this famous explorer. In the spring of 1985 I served as the base camp manager for the McGuire North Pole Expedition. I spent that spring in the tiny Inuit town of Resolute Bay, manning the radio and keeping track of a two-man team attempting to be the first to reach the Pole without the assistance of dogs or snowmobiles. Tourists on the way to the Pole came through Resolute, home of the World’s farthest north commercial airport. One such group included Armstrong and another personal hero – Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt. Everest.
I approached both men hoping they might walk with me to the radio room and give a pep talk to two very cold and tired men pulling heavy sledges across 400 miles of broken pack ice on their way to the Pole. Hillary was understandably aloof, but Neil jumped at the chance. Soon we were sitting at the mike. Neil started the transmission – speaking with Mike McGuire, head of the expedition.
“Mike, this is Neil Armstrong.” Mike, a bit testy in the 50 below zero weather, came right back.
“Andy, we’re busting our butts out here, we really don’t have time to mess around with clever imitations of famous men.”
Neil didn’t miss a beat, “No Mike, this is Neil Armstrong.”
Mike didn’t miss his beat either; he was itching for an argument. I finally had to take the mike from Neil, explaining firmly “Mike, really, you are talking to Neil Armstrong. Please show the man a little respect.”
After a rough start and an apology from Mike, Neil gave Mike and Rob Jacobs a great pep talk. We didn’t succeed in our effort, but Mike and Bob did travel over 250 miles in their quest for the Pole, by far the farthest north reached by man hauling at that time.
My hope is we remember this great man by renewing our efforts to travel through the heavens. This effort will do much to lift the spirits of human kind – lifting us out of a malaise which at times threatens the very survival of our species. Here is an oddly logical path toward world peace. The U.S. war making industry, by far the planet’s largest, is focused on blowing things up. Rockets are basically containment vessels for large controlled explosions.
We can re-tool our war supply industry to feed a greatly expanded space program. Instead of focusing on killing, our planet will be focused on the limitless wonders filling an almost infinite universe. Man will no longer walk with eyes down, lost in petty thoughts of hate and revenge – rather we will smile as we look up to ponder adventures happening above.
Let us grow Neil’s dream of walking on the moon into a vision of exploring the universe.