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‘How deep is the dust?’

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon is far better known for the historic words he said when taking his first steps on the lunar landscape.

That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

Actually, a dispute still rages about whether those words were pre-planned, or off the cuff and whether he said …’one small step for a man..’ or ‘one small step for man…’

To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. I was born in 1969, a few months after Apollo 11’s moon landing. Once I asked my father, who had hoped for a boy in the way fathers do, what I would have been named if I had been a boy. He said, ‘Neil,’ and then, perhaps seeing my grimace added, ‘or Oscar.’

I had not really made the connection between the proposed name of Neil and the moon landing until seeing a BBC documentary about Neil Armstrong earlier this year. I wonder how many little boys were born in 1969 or 1970 and were named Neil? Plenty, I imagine. It’s a good name and the BBC documentary really gave a flavour of how big the moon landing was. How it gripped the psyche of a nation, of the world. Born, post moon landing the whole thing becomes like, yeah, whatever, man on the moon. Or even, man on the moon? No way, big conspiracy, I mean, what cast those shadows man? Back then in 1969 it was taken for an amazing feat of space exploration.

The quote from the title of this post is taken from a conversation Neil Armstrong had with his younger brother before the Apollo 11 moon mission. ‘How deep is the dust?’ was Neil Armstrong’s primary concern. As it turns out, I am not named Neil and I will never go to the moon, but every time I start working with a new group of people, exploring what goes on in people’s brains I get anxious. It’s because its entering the orbit of another’s thoughts, it’s the unknown and yes, I wonder, how deep is the dust…

Not too deep as it turned out