At times, I picture myself communicating with some outstanding individual just like interviewers communicate with movie stars. Here is one of my imaginary would-be encounters.
My appointment with the requested historical persona would be set to 8AM, local time, unknown date. I would be guided to and left to wait in the Apollo Mission Control Room, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. While waiting, I would take my time wandering among the rows of greenish old computers. If I dared, I would sit in one of those grey chairs, probably in the Flight Director’s chair, and toy with the equipment by pressing all the colored buttons and spinning the old-styled telephone dials. However, after a few seconds of this uncontrollable joy, I would stop abruptly because it would dawn on me that all these buttons were once used to control the landmark flight of Apollo 11 to the Moon. Any button erroneously pressed in the faraway 1969 would have endangered or undermined the whole mission. Right at the moment when this realization hit me, I would see him, a man in a spacesuit entering the room.
I would marvel upon the suit design with its red and blue elements, NASA’s label on the right front, and the flag of the USA on the left shoulder. I would see my astonished face reflecting in the suit’s face shield. I would regret not being able to see the face of the man hidden behind this reflective screen of the helmet. Making labored steps, the man would slowly approach me. I would jump out of my seat and run to him. I would stop respectably one meter from the man and watch as he finally takes off his helmet. Here it would be, the moment when I meet Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the Moon, in person, face to face. Hopefully, he would smile at me and shake my hand which I would stretch so nervously. He would be the first to say a word because I would be too overwhelmed with emotion to say anything intelligible.
Mr. Armstrong would still be in his late thirties, the way the whole world remembers him. He would be full of energy and enthusiasm as if he has just come back from the Moon. He would take the nearest seat, put his helmet onto one of the panels, and ask me about what exactly I would like him to tell me. I would gather myself in order not to omit the precious opportunity to communicate with the legend whose small step was a giant leap for mankind. The first thing I would ask would be about Neil’s feelings when he made that historically breakthrough step. He would smile, then sigh and answer in a rather calm manner as if walking on the Moon were a usual deal for him. He would say that he was too overwhelmed with the greatness of the moment to actually feel and enjoy it, that it was a huge responsibility and a complicated task so he had no time for himself in the process. He would admit that the only thing he regretted was having his space suit on because he wanted to touch the Moon’s surface with his bare foot. Of course, it was impossible for obvious reasons, but the physical feeling is what he felt lacking to make the moment perfect.
After receiving my first answer, I would be impossible to stop. I would use every minute to find out more about Neil Armstrong’s lunar experience and hear the story firsthand. I would never interrupt; just listen carefully and patiently until I could ask my next question. I would ask about everything starting with how it was to look at the black sky, how it felt to accommodate to the suit and Moon’s gravity, what he felt when he looked at the Earth over the Moon’s horizon. When answering the latter, Mr. Armstrong would say that it felt like home, and that coming back did not bring sadness about leaving the Moon, but only happiness about coming back home. It would be the last question Neil Armstrong will have time to answer. The next moment, as if called by some unseen force which has organized this meeting, he would rise, shake my hand goodbye, and leave holding his helmet under his left arm. I would follow Mr. Armstrong with my gaze until he leaves the room, then turn around to see the control panels for the last time, and go back to my real life hoping never to forget this glorious hour-long conversation.