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Remembering Apollo

July 18, 2009

There have been some great articles online this week as planetary scientists remember Apollo or reflect on what its advances have meant.  I particularly liked ones from early career planetary scientist Noah Petro, who discussed it in context of the new LRO photos, and from science writer Irene Klotz, who blogged about memories of Apollo and Walter Cronkite.  I’ve been enjoying them, but one line in a senior scientist’s interview this week has been bothering me a bit.  Alan Stern says,

At the time of Apollo 11, I was a grade-schooler, and I remember every time an Apollo mission would take place that, like a lot of little boys, I’d gather in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours with my little brother.

Given that this is his particular memory, and he was a little boy at the time, I’m not upset so much as I’m curious.

What was it like to be a little girl at the time?  Was it the same kind of experience, or was there really a difference?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. coolstar permalink
    September 10, 2009 4:23 pm

    Alan Sterm may or not be a sexist asshat, (I have no data either way, so will give him the benefit of the doubt, as I do all people), but him recounting what he experienced as a child watching the Apollo landings certainly doesn’t count as DATA!

  2. Susan K permalink
    August 1, 2009 8:13 am

    I was not quite 5 in July 1969, living in Canada. I have vague memories of suited men on the Moon, but suspect that was later landings (I have much stronger memories of Watergate hearings interrupting my cartoon viewing! How DARE they?!?!). But I never had any sense that there was anything I couldn’t do because I was a girl. My early dream jobs were paleontologist, architect, archeaologist. Maybe I was oblivious. Or maybe it just was never a conversation. It was clear to me that education was important (my father taught at a university, we had a world map on the wall in the kitchen). I took math. The one year I struggled, it was blamed on the teacher, not on the fact that I was a girl. I took calculus in highschool at a time that the course offering itself was rare in high school. I took lots of science and loved it and my high school science classes had lots of girls in them. I guess I was a tomboy. And a nerd. And the only sport I really bothered with was running – cross country mostly – where gender totally didn’t matter.

    Maybe it WAS different. Or maybe I just didn’t notice or care and it was never “in your face” enough that I was forced to notice.

  3. J.C. permalink
    July 31, 2009 3:50 pm

    I had just turned 3 and remember being firmly planted in front of my great aunt and uncle’s tv for the lunar landing. I didn’t feel the extreme dichotomy that Mayya and justmesaying experienced. My dreams of the future saw me as a teacher, scientist, or writer. During my 4th grade year I ravenously and indiscriminately read everything space-related, from Sagan to von Däniken.

    I do remember when I was a little younger how the boys had basketball camp while the girls were only offered cheerleading camp. Still except for one incident, no one steered me away from my interests. After my mom returned to college for a beauty school degree, I mentioned to my (male) guidance counselor that I might like to study cosmetology. Without skipping a beat he replied, “well, I guess they need smart beauticians, too.” Thanks, Mr. Sullivan.

  4. Gretchen permalink
    July 24, 2009 11:04 am

    I was 1.5 at the time and I don’t remember it at all. However, my mom says that she took me outside to show me the moon when they landed and she says that I pointed up at it and said “light!” or some such. I think that she and my dad both were very open to any possibility and while they didn’t necessarily push me into science, I think the fact that they were never negative to the option made it easier for me to try this adventure that is planetary science.

  5. Mayya permalink
    July 22, 2009 10:36 am

    I was 8 years old at the time of the moon landing, and I completely echo what justmesayin writes. SO MUCH of life was simply outside the reach of females; there was no point in even thinking about it (thank goodness some brave women did).

    I used to love the Batman TV show, and would play Batman with my 2 best friends (girls). Eventually it was hammered into my brain that I couldn’t be Batman, that it not only wasn’t allowed but was purely impossible and unthinkable. I had to be Catwoman. I couldn’t be Robin Hood, I had to be Maid Marian.

    I remember being given that same choice: teacher, nurse, secretary. Or ballerina. The biographies of women we read in school (and they were all segregated by gender; girls could read the male biographies but the boys NEVER read the female biographies) all made it a point that these notable women were “not like other women.” Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Nellie Bly, Florence Nightingale, all some sort of mutant freaks. Yeah, they’re not like most other people in that they are extraordinarily brilliant and talented, but the point was made that they were not like other WOMEN.

    I worked with Alan Stern a couple decades ago at the University of Colorado. He was a sexist asshat then and he’s a sexist asshat now.

  6. July 21, 2009 7:16 pm

    while i was a little girl in the ’70s, i must admit i don’t remember a whole lot about it. i thought i would be a teacher ’cause both my grandmothers & my parents were teachers, but then when i was in 4th grade my dad applied for the Teacher in Space program. that changed my life, even after the Challenger blew up. i went to the US Air Force Academy and the International Space University. now i’ve combined both my love of space and my family’s tradition of teaching and am working to establish a planetarium in Cache Valley.

  7. justmesayin permalink
    July 21, 2009 2:08 pm

    I was a little girl at the time. It was like living in a subculture. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was male or for males. Religion, government, television, radio, paper routes, you name it. My brother was told he could be anything he wanted to be: a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist, a pilot. I was told I, too could be anything I wanted to be: a nurse, a secretary, a teacher. That’s what counted for equality in my family. I remember the big hooha when the first woman deejay was hired. All the discussions and debate about whether she should or could do the job. Seriously. So the space program was just another foreign place to me that I never ever would go. Didn’t even cross my mind that I could be something like an astronaut. The height of emancipation was to be someone’s secretary. Think about it.

  8. Deanne permalink
    July 21, 2009 11:34 am

    Thank you for bringing this thoughtless remark to our attention.

    I would guess that little girls were just as interested as little boys. I’ll ask my Mom what she remembers.


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