by Ilio Masprone-Publisher-Knight of the Principality of Monaco for cultural merits.
MONACO. “Fifty years ago I was a young journalist at the Turin “Gazzetta del Popolo” directed by Giorgio Vecchiato. That night we journalists gathered all together in the newspaper editing room to watch the first moon landing – the 50th anniversary of which the entire world celebrated on July 20 – on small black&white TV screens…Today I recall some inspired unforgettable quotes, from John F. Kennedy to Pope Paul VI, which have become as immortal as the images of that first moon walk.”
- In one of the most emblematic speeches in the history of political rhetoric on September 12th, 1962, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) announced that man would go to the moon, and that the USA would put to use all the resources to achieve it. JFK proposed a government policy, but also something actually transcending that policy: “… We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963. The Apollo program continued. When he gave that speech, a national majority was against the lunar program, but his fierce words inspired the nation. I think that they may well have been crucial for changing the course of history.
- As a devout Catholic Presbyterian, Apollo Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin brought the Word of God with him to our planet’s natural satellite before leaving the Earth’s soil ground on Apollo 11, along with communion given him by his pastor. He and and the mission commander Neil Armstrong were the first two humans to land on the Moon. Since the astronauts were only allowed to carry a very small amount of personal objects with them, he brought a few Bible verses written on a 3-by-5 card, including Psalm 8: 3-4: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him?”
- The honor of being the first man to step on the moon fell to Neil Armstrong, whose sublime words have become famous around the world: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” The “a” was not audible in the troubled recording of the live transmission, and there is a debate about whether the Apollo 11 commander came up with the quote after the rocket was leaving the earth or as he was leaving the first human footprint on the moon, but in any case, his words captured the significance of the moment.
- Journalist Walter Cronkite anchored CBS’s coverage of the journey of Apollo 11. He was filled with emotion and made the recording with poetic with words like these, which he spoke right after sharing the images of Neil Armstrong stepping down onto the moon’s surface: “For thousands of years now, it’s been man’s dream to walk on the moon. Right now, after seeing it happen, knowing that it happened, it still seems like a dream. And it is, I guess—a dream come true.”
- St. Paul VI, like the rest of humanity, followed the events of July, 1969, with close attention, and that was reflected in his public words in his Angelus message for July 20, 1969: “…Today, the scientific and operational progress of humanity is arriving at a goal that seemed unreachable: where may the thoughts and actions of man yet arrive? … It’s true that tools multiply man’s efficiency beyond all limits; but is this efficiency always to his advantage? Does it make him good? More human? Or might not the instrument imprison the humanity that produces it, and make them servants of a way of life that instrumentalises man in production, and that imposes its own paradigm on its use? Everything still depends on the heart of man.”
When on night the moon waxes full, looming huge upon the speckled expanse, she continues to fascinate us. I can just dream to go to the moon – and in fact, no one has for decades – but I can still marvel at its beauty, and at the achievement of having reached such a distant, demanding and strenuous destination.