Do you remember where you were and what you were doing 40 years ago? Next month, a great deal of ink and air-time will be given over to celebrate an event that puts in deep perspective everything else the human race has achieved in the brief blip of time that we’ve existed on this planet: the 40th anniversary of the first successfully manned mission to the moon. I don’t mean to get so wistful and wide-eyed, but when you really think about it—when you focus on the sheer audacity, courage, and know-how that enabled us to pull that off—it’s hard not to. For one thing, it wasn’t a private event. The countdown, the lift-off, portions of the flight, the lunar landing, the walk, the splashdown—many of the major moments in the whole hair-raising voyage were televised, allowing millions of people around the world to simultaneously share the fear and elation of what amounts to the high-water mark of humanity (so far). What is also plainly amazing is that the United States managed to plan and execute the moon shot while it was fighting a hot war in Vietnam, a cold war against the Soviets, and a generational and cultural war at home. It’s no wonder we Americans think we can do anything. Confidence was indeed high.
We were well beyond the planning stages and into the reporting phase of our “Where Are They Now?” package when it suddenly dawned on us that we’d lucked out on the timing of this issue. One particular Cincinnatian we were keen to check in with is Neil Armstrong. As much as he is known for being the first man to walk on the moon, he is also an intensely private individual who has done his best to steer clear of the media for the last four decades. To put it bluntly, confidence was not high that we would be able to get him to talk. But we persisted, and then a couple of things went our way. First, it turns out that Jack Twyman—who along with Oscar Robertson and Adrian “Odie” Smith made the Cincinnati Royals such a blast to watch in the ’60s and ’70s—is a friend of Armstrong’s. In talking with Twyman about his own appearance in our feature, he generously offered to help put our request in Armstrong’s hands. Second, contributing editor Kathleen Doane, who crafted our short list of questions, had met the astronaut years ago when, following his years with NASA, he bought a farm in Warren County and had come to ask her father a few questions of his own about crop yields and such. A connection was made. Amid the huge number of interview requests Neil Armstrong undoubtedly received to commemorate the anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 space mission, we’re grateful and honored that he took the time to answer ours.