The Dawn of a New Era

Newspapers across the country delivered coverage of Man’s first steps on the Moon to Americans eager to read every word on the morning of Monday, July 21, 1969. As this breakout box shows, the quotes of astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were forever preserved for posterity:

The Chicago Tribune presented its audience with an especially memorable Monday front page:

The comics pages from July 21st lacked the euphoria and pride that was so readily apparent in the “news” sections, since creators had prepared their mid-summer strips while many school-aged children were still in their classrooms; they were an oasis of “business as usual” — given that the “usual” involved gags designed to elicit a smile and the daily chapter in the latest unfolding sagas of adventure series. The Little Red-Haired Girl has moved away in Peanuts, leaving a bereft Charlie Brown to face the consequences of his own inaction. (One wonders how this strip would have been received had something gone tragically wrong with Apollo 11 …) Beetle Bailey and Tumbleweeds deliver their reliable brand of grins, while Roy Crane prepares to plunge Buz Sawyer into danger once again. Like its Friday predecessor that we looked at last week, this Monday Little Orphan Annie also differs from the strips LOAC has reprinted so far in its series of books devoted to the feature — Harold Gray’s signature is absent. Gray had passed away from cancer in 1968 at age seventy-four, and the syndicate kept America’s Spunkiest Kid alive, even without her creator to guide her exploits. The recent LOA strips in this space were the product of artist Tex Blaisdell and writer Elliot Caplin (brother of Li’l Abner‘s Al Capp, who enjoyed a long career in comics all his own).

Viewed from one perspective, the promise of the Apollo program has failed to materialize. The sight of Saturn V rockets blasting man into space, once compelling, became routine. The near-calamity of Apollo 13 was a grim reminder of the perils of exploration, and decisions to “play to the crowds” (with Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard playing golf on the Moon, for example) notoriously backfired, as questions began to be raised about whether the money spent on Lunar visitation could be put to better use on Earth. Yet many areas of 21st Century life that are taken for granted evolved from capabilities originally developed to support space exploration — the fact we are able to share this message is owed in part to satellite technology that has roots extending back to the 1960s Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programs.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported to its readers on July 21st, 1969:

Many of us who remember watching that first Lunar excursion a half-century ago fervently hope that the exploration of the Moon — and beyond — has only been delayed, and is far from completed. In the meantime, we salute Astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins, as well as the hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, launch crew, communications experts, mathematicians, and mission support staff who made their voyage possible. We may promote others to stand with them as Man’s probing of space continues, but we will not see their like again.


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