Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Moon Landings and Lost Friends

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. 35 years ago, humans first set foot on another planet. Wow. That's an amazing thing for me. I think it's what may have started my love affair with astronomy and the space program.

You see, even though I was only three years old, I remember it. My parents had taken my brothers and I over to my Aunt and Uncle's place to watch it. I still remember seeing those grainy pictures of Neil Armstrong stepping down from the lunar lander, and uttering those immortal words, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." It still fills me with awe, and wonder.

What's even more amazing is that they did it with computing power that is completely archaic by today's standards. The box on my desk is smarter than the computers they used. (So why does it crash so often? Hmmmm . . . ) One thing those computers couldn't do, though is show it to you in full panoramic view (by way of Boing Boing). Got check it out. It's been 35 years, and it still gives me goose bumps.

It seems only fitting, then, that if one of my childhood heroes had to die, that he did it today. This morning James Doohan passed away quietly at home. Mr. Doohan played Mr. Scott on TV's Star Trek.

Like many folks my age, I really only got to see Star Trek in syndication, but I loved every episode. Mr. Scott gave us a great role model. Okay, maybe a drunken Scotsman isn't such a great role model, but one who loves his job, loves engineering and technological problem solving is. He showed a (albeit fictional) combination of competence and creative thinking that I'm sure inspired many a geek into various engineering fields. His ability to think under pressure, and still keep his sense of humor, was just cool.

Mr. Doohan was a wonderful actor, and from what I know of him, a great human being. Will Wheaton said of him, "Everyone who watched Star Trek liked Scotty, but everyone who met him loved Jimmy . . . I'm sure I'm not the only person today who feels like they lost a friend."

I'd like to think that maybe now, Mr. Doohan is getting to "explore strange new worlds," with as much joy as he gave us, when he was only pretending to.

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