In the 1960s, like other children around the world, I spent long late hours on school nights sitting in front of the television, joined by the rest of my family.
Sometimes, I would be up all night and too tired to attend school the next day, but I was not alone.
A lot of children stayed home from school to watch television, then, and teachers said it was perfectly okay.
Why? Well, the unusual and unique events that allowed my daily (or nightly) life to be so disrupted were that N.A.S.A. astronauts were walking on the Moon.
The televisions in those days only had black and white broadcasts in Australia, where I live, and the images were grainy and vague but there was a great sense of the universe opening up as the ‘tinny’ astronaut voices beamed in from outer space and, punctuated by radio pips, filled the room.
Life was different, then. There were no limitations on how much funding should go into the exploration of space, on earth or anywhere else.
In school, children were taught that life was a great adventure and that there were no frontiers inaccessible to those who had courage and a spirit for adventure.
Other television programs on air in those days included the ‘Lost in Space’ series, and movies about ‘Robbie the Robot’.
(Such was the effect on both my husband and myself of ‘Lost in Space’ that my daughter was later named after Will Robinson’s kind and intrepid sister, Penny – though with a slightly different spelling).
I adored ‘Robbie the Robot’ and the ‘Robot’ from ‘Lost in Space’. Who didn’t want a loyal, brave, kind, understanding friend like that?
I’m certain that the scientific work on robotics got a great spur of inspiration from those stories, on television, in the movies, and in sci-fi novels which were also rife, back then.
The years that followed produced more and more sci-fi adventure, including another television delight, ‘My Favorite Martian.’
By the time the ‘Star Trek’ series aired, I was an avid sci-fi fan (and partly fell in love with my husband because he had much of the nature of Mr. Spock. Thanks and blessings to the late Leonard Nimoy, who brought that character to life).
Even when I was a very little girl, my mother would sit with my sister and me on the back porch of my Nanna’s home and point out constellations in the starry night sky.
Humans have always been fascinated by the stars, the sun and moon, and the studies of astrology and astronomy have been embedded in most cultures for thousands of years.
Going into outer space was thus the culmination of a long progression of interest, stemming from ancient times.
I do feel lucky to have grown up with all that well-embedded star-gazing.
Looking at the great expanse of space was like hanging off the edge of your bed upside down as a child, and noticing that the ceiling was a vast space with not much in it, when it became the ‘floor.’
It seemed less cluttered, more easily navigable, unlike my actual bedroom floor.
I suppose crossing the oceans was like that for ancient mariners, and crossing deserts was like that for earthbound explorers. Outer space was just a new field of vastness without so much clutter (or so we thought, then).
Because of that yearning for something different, something simpler yet also magnificent, and something inspirational, my eyes were often on the stars as I grew up, scanning the skies for movement.
My head was filled with notions of aliens, of super education given by celestial beings from other planets, and of adventure into the great unknown.
Despite the ‘airy fairy’ sound of that, it was the sense of limitless expansion and adventure encouraged by those marvelous days of not only fantastic stories but real life accomplishments that has left a mark on my generation for the rest of our lives.
Many of the concepts mooted in those sci-fi stories have been worked on by mature scientests bred from the children I grew up with, to bring us devices such as computers and mobile phones.
So the children of today have a lot to be thankful for, that man once walked on the moon – and my childhood has a lot to be thankful for, in the original storytellers like Isaac Asimov, C.S. Lewis, etc., who wrote the sci-fi that inspired the space race and all that grew from it.
It’s no wonder that even at a time when funds are curtailed for the real life outer space adventures of our astronaut heroes, people still find the universe beyond, and all it contains (or may contain), absolutely fascinating
Watching the astronauts walking on the moon was a never to be forgotten experience for all those able to be present around the television, then.
Who could ever forget Neil Armstrong’s famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind !”