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Joseph O'Dea

Journal Contributor Joseph O'Dea writes:

On October 11, 1968, I went into the sitting-room in the middle of the afternoon to find the television on. A tall white rocket stood pointing at the sky. I had never seen one fly before so I stayed to see Apollo 7 blaze astonishingly into space, and scorch a permanent mark on my imagination.

Just two months later, men rode another thrilling spear of flame and dared to voyage all the way out to the moon to spend Christmas in orbit around it. This was more than a boy could hope for, so I followed each Apollo mission with forensic attention and devoured all the television, newspapers, and magazines I could find.

The following July when men walked on the moon, I was allowed to stay up all night to watch it. The landing happened at my usual bedtime in Dublin, and I looked at the crescent moon in the late evening sky and felt the true mystery of men being up there.

It was almost four in the morning when the first man came down the ladder. I watched the magic ghosts shimmer on the screen until they returned to their spacecraft after six o'clock.

Since then, only the very rare has launched my imagination to the same heights as the sight of those first explorers on another world. I should have been asleep in the world of dreams; instead I saw ghosts in those wide-awake dreams that ended at dawn. It was a privilege to be alive when it happened.

November 2002