Astronauts on TV by (1 Story)

Prompted By Moon Landing

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“Astronaughts on TV” was the description in my diary that I kept with me on my trip back home from Israel. I had left Haifa on July 14th, taking a car ferry to Athens, where I was beginning a road trip through Europe. I had just finished a 15 month stay in Jerusalem, having been part of a team that started the first TV station in Israel. It was my first trip out of the US, and it was July 21st, 1969, a week into my adventure, when I found myself in Thessaloniki, in Greece. The city was beautiful, and it reminded me of Haifa. Every place I went was new and exciting. I was not feeling so much like an American abroad, but rather like a world adventurer. During my time in Israel the news from the United States was sad, and frightening. First it was the Bobby Kennedy assassination, followed by the Martin Luther King shooting, then race riots, the Viet Nam war protests, and last but not least, Richard Nixon sworn in as president. I was truly torn about whether I wanted to go home to a country that seemed to me, on the verge of revolution. At that time I was so immersed in my own life, that I really gave little oxygen to what was going on in the U.S. I didn’t keep up with the news of the day. Occasionally I’d get a copy of the International Herald Tribune, but I was mostly in the dark about day to day events.I didn’t know about Woodstock till after I got home. On this day, the 21st of July, I was jolted into recognizing a special day for the world, its humanity, and especially for the United States. As I was walking in town searching for a restaurant, there was a large crowd standing in front of a store window. It was an electronics store, and the window was filled with TV sets, all tuned to the Apollo 11 mission. I stood in the crowd watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. My heart swelled with wonder and pride at the accomplishment the U.S. had made to fulfill the promise made by John Kennedy. After two years of disheartening events, the United States had something good to be be proud of. After watching for awhile, I resumed my search for a restaurant, and making a plan to begin the drive to the Dalmation coast. I didn’t spend much time that summer trying to process the accomplishment and the bravery of what the U.S. had achieved by landing a person on the moon. It was only years later that I came to appreciate the enormity of the achievement. To me, at the time, the moon landing was just a little blip on my own adventure as a young 24 year old man, getting to know his own planet earth, and the people of other countries and cultures.

My heart swelled with wonder and pride at the accomplishment the U.S. had made to fulfill the promise made by John Kennedy. The store window was filled with TV sets, all tuned to the Apollo 11 mission.
Profile photo of Howard J Kirsch Howard J Kirsch


  1. Marian says:

    Howard, I identify with the sadness of the previous year and the pride in the achievement of JFK’s dream. This is such a good perspective from someone who was outside the US at the time. Welcome to Retrospect!

  2. Suzy says:

    Howard, thank you for this wonderful account from the viewpoint of someone who was living abroad. You might be interested in reading Laurie’s story, told from a similar perspective.

    Your 15 months in Jerusalem starting the first Israeli TV station sounds fascinating. Hope to hear more about that in future stories. Glad you have joined us on Retrospect!

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    We both experienced the moon landing from a similar part of the world, Howard. I couldn’t even find a tv to actually watch it and had to rely on grainy images in the Italian press. By the time I got to Israel, no one was talking about it. It didn’t feel real to me until I came home. Welcome to Retrospect and thanks for sharing.

  4. JeanZ says:

    A reminder of a time when foreign travel meant you could escape the news — coming only when you managed to get a copy of the International Herald Tribune. In those days it was two folded sheets of paper with eight pages of news total.

    • You’re right about that. The only way to avoid the news is to leave your “smart” devices home, and not worry about what you might be missing. Be present to take in new experiences. Easier said than done.
      Thanks for the comment.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Howard, was a fascinating journey you took, to be out of the country so long and at such pivotal moments in US history. I can understand your impulse to not return, given all the shockingly bad news you recount. How interesting that you helped to set up the first TV station in Israel. And then that moment of civic pride when Americans set foot on the moon. But there you were in Greece, looking for a restaurant, so on with your day. Thank you for adding this story to our accounts of history.

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