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Thunder Full Moon

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On July 13 we have our third supermoon in a row and it is a Full Thunder Moon. This name comes from the thunderstorms that frequently appear this time of year. The moon will appear full from Tuesday July 12 through Friday July 15. July’s supermoon full moon is more than 16,000 miles closer to earth than normal. It’s the closest one all year. It will appear 10% larger than normal.

This full moon is also called a Full Buck Moon, named because deer antlers are in full growth mode at this time of year. Bucks shed previous antlers and grow a new pair each and every year.

A full moon is a sight to see, let alone a full supermoon. With binoculars or a telescope you can notice its craters, ridges, and mountains. But can you believe that some men have actually walked those craters? Just think of it! Fifty-three summers ago Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. I can remember where I was at the time. I was doing chores on the farm that night in Masaryktown. My brother Lou and I were “rounding up chickens” for vaccination and helping Dad. Lots of leg work! We would catch the hens and carry them outside. Dad gave them a shot and crated them. Later all were released back inside after the whole coop had been vaccinated. It was a hot and dirty job. Afterward we all gathered around the TV set. We watched replay after replay of the lunar landing and of man taking his first steps on the moon. It didn’t seem real!

We’re approaching another milestone; the last walk on the moon. Eugene Cernan did that in December of 1972, almost 50 years ago. He followed his fellow astronaut, Harrison Schmitt, back into the capsule of Apollo 17, making him the last man to walk on the surface of the moon. He joined an elite group of only twelve men who have set foot on the lunar surface.
Four of the twelve men are still living. They are Buzz Aldrin, David Scott, Charles Duke, and Harrison Schmitt. They’re old timers now, ranging in age from 86 to 92. They have the distinction of being the 2nd, 7th, 10th, and 12th persons respectively to walk on the moon. One of them, Aldrin, was on the crew of the first manned lunar landing in 1969. Another, Duke, is the youngest man to ever walk on the moon when he was just 36 years and 201 days old.

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What about some of the others from the elite group? Alan Shepard Jr. is well remembered, He was #5 to walk on the moon and was the oldest to do so at age 47. He loved planes as a young boy and took odd jobs at a local airfield. Following WWII, he became a pilot himself in 1950. By the end of the decade Shepard was picked for NASA’s first space program, Project Mercury. In 1961 he became the second person in space and the first American. His 15 minute ride aboard Freedom 7 really boosted morale! Who was the first man in space? He was Russian, Yuri Gagarin. It had been a tight “space race” and he went up just 23 days before Shepard.

In 1971 Shepard walked on the moon. He was the only Mercury Seven astronaut to do so. He is remembered for hitting two golf balls on the moon’s surface after smuggling a golf club aboard the capsule. He got the idea after seeing Bob Hope carry a club as his prop while entertaining. Shepard passed away July 21, 1998, almost 29 years to the day after the first moonwalk.

Another of the elite, John Young, was #9 to walk on the moon. He flew on Apollo 16 in April 1972. He was the only man to go into space as part of Gemini, Apollo, and the space shuttle programs. He was also the first man to fly into space six times! At the age of 88 he passed away on January 5, 2018.

Today, how the space race has changed! There are privately funded corporations like Blue Origin and SpaceX sending rockets and delivering supplies in space. And yet we haven’t set foot on the moon since 1972! Going there was expensive, reduced funding and other problems ultimately halted moon exploration. However NASA has committed to a new space program called Artemis.

What now? There are hopes to orbit the moon in 2024 and land there by 2026. The Artemis Program is determined to send a woman and also a person of color to the moon. At least 10 moon missions are planned, we are not giving up! Soon more men and women will set foot on our beautiful moon. They’ll walk on the moon again and become part of the elite.

Tampa Tribune and Times front page from mid July 1969, leading up to the moon mission.

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