Stella Starr


Stella Starr
Plainfield, IL
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Life & Events > I Remember Sputnik.

I Remember Sputnik.

I remember Sputnik. I remember lying on my back on the soft grass in our back yard with my sisters and parents, watching it travel across the sky.
With my Parent's telescope set up on the roof of the house, we had all peered through the telescope and saw the moving object in the sky. It was NOT an airplane. Having been a Science Fiction fan since I can remember, I thought it was magnificent. People like Walter Winchell and Richard Nixon thought it was a terrible thing. "The Communists take the lead into outer space!" My father was amazed. My mother was speechless. One had to know my mother to realize how rare this was.

Frankly, I had had a belly full of fear of Communism before I was able to think and reason. I figured, having been raised Catholic, that the only difference between people was Catholics and Non-Catholics, which didn't seem to make any difference to my family anyway.

I remember being very excited by a man named John F. Kennedy, from the first time I read anything about him. Then he was running for President, and he was NOT a billion years old, and his wife was gorgeous and dressed tastefully, like my mother. He won the election! He said the United States was going to put a man on the moon within ten years.

The United States had just started trying to put people in space. We started working our way through the Mercury Program, which had more disasters than could be counted at the time.

Three years later, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My entire generation went through a National Period of Mourning, literally, broadcast on television continually for days. In theory, life went on.

There was Gemini. Saturn Rockets, the Apollo program, then Skylab, and Apollo-Soyuz.
The Apollo Missions started in 1961 and ended in 1972.
Apollo 11's mission was to land two men on the moon.

They also had to come back to Earth safely.
Lots of Apollo missions, few as exciting as missions #11 and #13.
Apollo 11 blasted off on July 16, 1969. Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins were the astronauts on Apollo 11. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon.

They landed on the moon in "The Eagle", the Lunar Module.
Back home on Earth, a couple named their newborn baby girl "Lunar Module McGee." Which I thought was the coolest name ever! I'm guessing she didn't keep it much past her 18th or 21st birthday, but one never knows. Maybe she realized she was a part of history.

We watched on television as the Apollo Spaceship reached Lunar Orbit. Then the Astronauts needed to sleep. I understood that, but was eager for "The Event" to happen. Then, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon. It was amazing! He said "That's one small step for man, zzzzzt giant leap for zzzzt." He was followed by Buzz Aldrin. He and Aldrin walked around for three hours. They planted an American flag, They did experiments. They picked up bits of moon dirt and rocks. They left behind a plaque, which said, in part, "We came in peace, for all mankind." (Back then the word "Humankind" was not yet in common usage.) They pulled out a putter and a golf ball and knocked the gold ball around. I was elated! It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen!

I sat with my mother, absolutely fascinated, as the scene from the moon was broadcast on television. We literally clung to each other with excitement. My mother, who was born in 1921, and learned to drive in a Model T Ford, lived to see men land and walk on the moon! I watched it happen! I saw that! We were exhilarated! We cheered, we cried. We felt a part of history. Somehow nothing seemed impossible any more. We were on our way to outer space!
You can see it at

Michael Collins was the only member of the crew not to get to walk on the moon in that mission. What I didn't know then, was that his work would change me even more profoundly. Michael Collins stayed in orbit around the moon. He did experiments, which few people remember, and took pictures which no Earth resident will ever forget. His pictures changed my feelings, and the feelings of many people, in the USA and around the planet about National Pride, and Patriotism.

The pictures he took gave me a sense that all humans are really in it together, here on Earth. It was evident, seeing Earth from space, that we are all one, living on a relatively small planet, and that borders and boundaries of countries and states are invisible from space. They are artifices, created by people. All throughout history, people have fought over land, water, languages, and religion. In reality, all we have to rely on is other human beings. There is only one planet. It's all we've got, and it can't afford the wars and pollution human beings afflict on it.

Today, people who lived through that period and experienced those feelings are scoffed at and called "One-Worlders" by the people who think we should all fight, all the time. They are the same people with cars sporting the bumper stickers which say, "He who dies with the most toys, WINS." Which makes for a "me against everyone else on the planet" mindset.

What changed in me was, I became someone who sincerely believes that I must live simply, that others may simply live. I realized that we are this one planet, of many thousands of planets,. It is great arrogance, even hubris, to believe we are all alone in The Universe as we know it.

Eventually that path and mindset did lead me to Buddhism, and a way of seeing myself and everything in life as a whole, past, present and future. We, all of us, landed on the moon, because it is part of the collective human story. Throughout history, nobody had ever done such a thing, and in my lifetime, it became possible and attainable.

The sign the astronauts left on the moon says, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."
Humankind is still waiting for that peace to arrive here on planet Earth.

posted on Dec 10, 2011 8:03 PM ()


My daughter and I were living alone and sputnik gave me a feeling of unease.
I was born in l929 and have witnessed a lot of changes but never a long
period of peace.I wish that I could leave this earth knowing that man could
and would live in peace forever.
comment by elderjane on May 25, 2013 1:08 PM ()
Very well expressed. I remember Sputnik, too. It was the poster child for the cold war.
comment by troutbend on Dec 13, 2011 7:27 PM ()
That's a great post. I too remember every bit of that, and it was exciting. We have lost that magic in recent years, it seems to me. Now, our country is fractured and divided as I have never seen it in my lifetime.
comment by redimpala on Dec 13, 2011 11:48 AM ()
Thanks. Super post! Memories that we share.
comment by jondude on Dec 11, 2011 7:12 AM ()
I was already an old man by then--25!!!!
comment by greatmartin on Dec 10, 2011 8:36 PM ()

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