July 20 is a summer day. My hometown Ağrı, a northeastern border town of Turkey, is not one of the warmest places on earth, however it is still warm in July.
I was only 12 then, just finished elementary school, heading to the the Middle School. There was no TV reception in Ağrı at that time; it was an invention that had not arrived my home yet. The newspapers came daily, but usually a day late due to the time it takes to bring them from Istanbul by bus. Everyday I visited my father’s hardware store and some other nearby places, reading yesterday’s papers and following one of the greatest stories: The landing of man on the moon. Quickly, it became my job to inform my relatives about this extraordinary story. It seems, I was the only person in town who knew what was going on. I knew the names of everyone, from the President JFK, members of his cabinet, the director of NASA, top scientists, engineers, to the astronauts who were locked in that small capsule and sent off of the earth. As much as a 12-year can claim to be an authority on the subject, I became the source of information for my family, my relatives, and our neighbors.
For many, this was an event to which they paid intermittent attention, and perhaps forgot afterward. For me, however, it was an event that shaped the rest of my life. I decided that I wanted to become a scientist or engineer who can be involved in projects like this; the moon may have been captured, but many celestial objects are yet to be reached: Mars, Venus, maybe even Pluto.
After 40 years, humanity still did not figure out an efficient way to send manned spaceships beyond the moon, but the dream remains and our robot machines are already digging the surface of the Mars or heading beyond the solar system. As for me, due to what was available or feasible, I studied electrical engineering and then computer science, but I am still a constant admirer and avid reader of space exploration.
I am grateful to those scientists and engineers who dreamed of and finally accomplished the landing on the moon; without their implicit encouragement, an unpretentious boy from a northeastern town of Turkey would have never have the courage to dream about a doctorate in computer science from the University of California.