Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bill Anders and American Cheese

In a recent post on Sasha's blog, she requested that her readers submit their favorite quotes. I'm very rarely effected enough by language, regardless of profoundity, to justify remembering, let alone repeating the quotable. I'm really not sure what this says about me, but I'm sure it's further proof that I'm a bad seed.

Sure, there are doozies from most of my heroes. Exciting things like: "I have a dream." or "In a gentle way, you can shake the world." But those and so many others have been beaten to death. So I opted to leave Sasha a message that needs explanation, and is an example of my unfortunate, perhaps tragic disconnect with the rest of society.

More than a decade ago, while researching a paper for my Aviation History class at UVSC, I came across an account of part of the radio communication between the pilots of a Navy HS4 helicopter and the crew of the Apollo 8 mission. As the Apollo 8 crew waited in the Command Module after splashdown for rescue divers from the chopper to secure the spacecraft, one of the helicopter pilots asked asked the crew if the moon was made of Limburger cheese. Bill Anders replied "No… it’s made of American Cheese."

Anders was a fighter pilot who had flown the most cutting-edge aircraft and spacecraft ever designed (including the Apollo 8 Lunar Module), he was a nuclear engineer, and one of the three people to orbit the freakin' moon for the first time. His answer was not simply a glib reply, but one that encompassed his intimate knowledge of the complexities of the Cold War motivation for the Apollo program, the personal sacrifice and excellence required of he and his crew mates, and the monumental and historical feat of engineering that man had just achieved.

Anders' quote displays a razor-sharp and dry wit that, while I may not be able to match, I do identify with. Deep meaning, subtly masked is a favorite game of mine, and Anders was instantly among the top of my way-too-cool list and remains there to this day.