By Adrienne Provenzano
In a booklet from 1915 entitled Gene Stratton-Porter - A Little Story of the Life and Work and Ideals of the Bird Woman, noted Hoosier author explains that "Mrs. Porter's first all-alone effort was printed in wabbly letters on the fly-leaf of an old grammar. It was entitled: "Ode to the Moon." Not that I had an idea what an 'ode' was, other than that I had heard it discussed in the family together with different forms of poetic expression. The spelling must have been by proxy: but I did know the words I used, what they meant, and the idea I was trying to convey."
This childhood creative effort that Gene Stratton-Porter speaks of has been lost to the ages, but from a young age, she appreciated the moon as surely as she observed and reflected upon so many other aspects of the natural world. What then, might she have thought about human beings traveling to the moon? While widely read, the genre of science fiction, such as the writings of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, did not seem to interest her. Perhaps it was midwestern practicality that kept her taste in literature elsewhere, still, I think her grit, determination, curiosity, wonder, attention to detail, and patience might have made her an effective astronaut, had the opportunity presented itself!
This year, NASA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. On the evening of July 20, 1969, two humans stepped foot on the Moon for the first time. Those crew members of NASA's Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, left bootprints on the Moon's surface during their two-and-a-half-hour field trip. As they worked, explored, and marveled, crew member Michael Collins remained in the command module, waiting for their return.
The trio launched atop a Saturn V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on the morning of July 16, 1969 and completed their journey when they splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969. It was a mission followed all over the world.
The landing site was called Tranquility Base. The lunar module was called the Eagle.The command module was called Columbia. When Neil Armstrong stated, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed," there were cheers and sighs of relief.
So, where were you on July 20, 1969 when humans first walked on the moon? If you were alive at the time, were you watching on a black and white tv? Did you save the cover page of your local newspaper the next day? What story might you tell? What "Ode to the Moon" might you write? What ideas might you convey in "wabbly letters" on the "fly-leaf of an old grammar."
Here's something I imagine...a future mission to the Moon, or perhaps Mars, with a crew of women and men..."Houston, Limberlost Base here, the Blue Heron has landed."
Adrienne Provenzano, Songstress of the Limberlost, is an Indiana Advanced Master Naturalist and volunteer NASA Solar System Ambassador. For more information about the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, visit www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th.