However, last night we were fortunate to witness the last blue moon until 2015 on LeConte. Most of you all are probably aware that a blue moon is when you're lucky enough to get two full moons in one month, which is exactly what happened at the beginning and end of August.
It took a while to make its appearance as patchy clouds shuttled across the mountain. At times the blue moon scuttled behind a patchwork of clouds looked like a turtle had swallowed a lantern and the light oozed through the partitions of his shell.
However, about 10:30 p.m. I took the above photo through a thin veil of clouds and with a Fraser fir framing the shot. Allyson would have taken a better photo, but it is what it is. She has a fine camera and the talent to use it. The camera (and talent) I use is a little less complicated--the Idiot 300X-DUMB model. It's the only camera I know where you adjust the settings to take a night photo and a prompt comes up that says: "Do you really think this is going to work or are you just going to end up apologizing for the photo?"
At any rate, as I took in the beauty of the full moon over High Top, I couldn't help thinking about the legendary U.S. space pioneer Neil Armstrong, whose memorial service was also held Friday. I'm sure many have remarked on it, but it is quite a coincidence that we honored the bravery and dignity of the first human to set foot on the moon on the same day we viewed our last blue moon until 2015 (according to the good folks at SPACE.com).
In spring semester 2011, I worked as a crew trainer at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center's Space Camp, teaching space science and teamwork to kids from across the world. I just missed getting to meet Neil Armstrong by a month (I think he visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center that January, and I arrived in February). There aren't a great many kids who know much about any octogenarians other than family, but you could tell from the photos they were thrilled to see Neil Armstrong.
An aside, Neil Armstrong was always adamant that his legendary words as he touched down into moondust were: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." In the audio transmissions, you can't hear the "a" before "man." However, Mr. Armstrong wasn't chosen as the commander of the most important space exploration mission in human history because he was haphazard. I imagine he knew exactly what he wanted to say if he was lucky enough to survive his lunar descent. I'll take Neil Armstrong at his word.
It's been a rough 15 months or so for the U.S. space program. The last space shuttle mission touched down flawlessly last summer--the fleet now consigned to museums and grounded for eternity. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (the crew of Apollo 11) would probably be amazed if you told them at the height of the Cold War in 1969 that the only way a U.S. astronaut could get to the International Space Station in 2012 was to hitch an expensive ride with the Russians. History moves quickly.
In addition to Neil Armstrong's passing on Aug. 25, U.S. space pioneer Sally Ride died on July 23. Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space in 1983, smashing a lofty glass ceiling. The Russians put their first woman (Valentina Tereshkova) in space in 1963. Also in 1983, the U.S. not only broke the gender barrier in space but also the color barrier as Guy Bluford became the first African-American to enter orbit (we did beat the rest of the world on that pursuit).
Hard times or no, Americans have always been passionate explorers and there will be others farther down the line (I hope one of those little kids at Space Camp) who Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride would be proud to call a U.S. astronaut.
Now back to our atmosphere for the LeConte weather report. Friday's high was 72, the hottest day since Aug. 2. It felt warmer than that because the air was stagnant for much of the day. The low was 54, and we totaled 0.04 inches of rain. We still need some more rain (and have received a couple of short showers on Saturday), but every little bit helps keep the spring flowing.