Fifty Years Ago Today —

— Mankind left its earthly cradle and set foot on another heavenly body as Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin left the confines of their Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), dubbed the Eagle, and walked on the Moon.

That momentous event, however, did not occur until almost 4:18 in the afternoon — which means the Sunday newspapers that day were on sale many hours before Armstrong pressed the first human footprint into lunar soil. In my native New England, coverage of the anticipation of Armstrong and Aldrin’s “extra-vehicular activity” (EVA) was forced below the front-page fold, because news of another newsworthy item concerning a high-profile member of Massachusetts’s “first family” was coming to light.

Here is the Boston Sunday Globe¬†front page, with its first coverage of what is now known as “the Chappaquiddick incident” involving Senator Edward M. Kennedy:

With major motion pictures released during the past two years related to both these events — 2017’s Chappaquiddick and last year’s First Man, focused on the life story of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong — it strikes me as somewhat strange to realize events I lived through are now considered “history” by the culture-at-large …

As we discussed last time in this space, lead times kept the newspaper comics pages during this period basically empty of content related to Apollo 11. I saw symmetry in including below the July 20th, 1969 Sunday page from the very first series LOAC reprinted, Terry and the Pirates, to parallel the very first moonwalk. And in 1969, no TV series was hotter than Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, a brightly-colored comedy series filled with rapid-fire sketches and blackouts. A regular feature of the program was its “joke wall” — in which cast members and guest stars popped in and out of view, tossing off fast-paced “two-liners” — and Ron Doty’s Laugh-In comic strip uses the joke wall to good effect.

The Sunday papers had long been absorbed by the afternoon of July 20th, and America was bathed in phosphor-dot light, watching the network news program of its choice as television transmissions from another heavenly body delivered the transcendent moment the Boston Globe would declare so simply and emphatically in its Monday, July 21st headline:

Of course, getting there was only half the story — Apollo 11 could not be successful unless Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were able to come safely home. The “history” I referenced earlier tells us that was the case, but join us in this space tomorrow for a last look at the flight of Apollo 11 — and our sampling of newspaper comics from that period.

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