Sunday, August 26, 2012
R.I.P. Neil Armstrong
He was the first human to step onto another world. There's really not a lot more to say.
Neil Armstrong was also a Star Trek fan. He was the main speaker at the dinner honoring James Doohan at the Scotty convention in Los Angeles in 2004. He said he hoped his next command would be a Federation starship.
I remember the strange sensation of entering that banquet room. Outside getting photographed were various stars associated with Star Trek. Inside people were looking for their assigned tables. All of them were dressed up for a special occasion. Among the suits and dresses were Starfleet uniforms, mostly of the original cast movies, but also from the TV series, and the 24th century. It was one of those moments when it seemed the normal world included the existence of Starfleet.
Later when the dinner had begun and the room was darkened, I spotted Nichelle Nichols a few tables in front of me. I was there on assignment--one of the few if not the only member of the press present--and I knew I wanted to interview Nichelle at some point during the convention. So I walked over just to introduce myself, and tell her I'd be looking for an opportunity to talk to her the next day. She listened, and then said she wanted to introduce me to somebody-- the man next to her.
Out of the semi-darkness, up popped Neil Armstrong. Nichelle, who had just heard my name for the first time, used it to introduce us. I was speechless. I was shaking hands with the first human to step onto another world. Really.
One of the wonders of Star Trek is this relationship to the wonders of the real world. A man who had traveled through space, piloted a vehicle down to the moon's surface, and walked on the moon, was honoring an actor who pretended to be a starship engineer on television and in the movies. Both of them had inspired wonder in many others. Neil Armstrong went up on that stage and said to Doohan, "from one engineer to another, thanks, mate."
So it's time to say a final thanks to Neil Armstrong, and may he rest in peace. (Here's one of many stories about him around the web today. Below is my photo of that convention's closing ceremony, with Neil Armstrong shaking the hand of James Doohan.)