It may be my earliest memory that I can date. I was staying with family friends, the Ellisons. (I suppose my dad must have been on a bad drunk — that was usually the reason my mom sent me to stay with friends.) I'm sure the whole family must have been gathered around the old black-and-white TV, but I don't remember them. I remember the fuzzy space-suited man jumping what seemed so far down that last step, in slow motion. I remember his famously flubbed first words. And I remember ABC's Science reporter, Jules Bergman, talking over a picture of the face of the moon, showing where the landing site was. (I think I even remember a little (though vastly out of scale) cardboard-cutout of a LEM). I remember at some point going out on the front porch and looking at the moon, trying desperately to spot the Eagle. (I was aware that it was very far away, but I was too young to have any real sense of what a quarter million miles meant, and I hoped there'd be a reflection or ... something.) Someone (one of their teenage daughters (Marilyn, I think) explained to me that it was too far away, and coaxed a by the very sleep and up-way-past-his-bed-time little boy inside.
I'm sure I followed the rest of Apollo 11 with fascination, but aside from a few scattered images (a splashdown that may not be that splashdown; the isolation chamber on the deck of an aircraft carrier, looking as I recall like nothing so much as an airstream trailer), I remember no details. I'm sure I followed Apollo 12 as well, but it was with Apollo 13 that I became an obsessive little geek. I kept my own little mission log, writing down the exact time of launch,first stage separation, second stage separation, Earth orbit, translunar injection.... (When the first reports of "Houston, we have a problem" came in, I was sure that my logging the mission had somehow jinxed the mission.)
But forty years ago tonight, that was all in the future. Forty years ago tonight a little boy stared intently at a crescent moon, hanging over over a wheat field near Puget Sound, and knew that, even though he couldn't see it, he was looking at the most amazing thing ever.