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Neil Armstrong, MTV’s Man-on-the-Moon and Generation X

MTV Neil Armstrong Man on the moon

MTV’s Man-on-the-Moon

…And in our haste
To grow up too soon
We left our innocence
On Desert Moon
We were dreamers
Only dreamers…

From DeYoung and Desert Moon

I was 22 months old in July 1969, when Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. He died yesterday at the age of 82.

When NASA retired the Space Shuttle Program in July 2011, the event was like an ellipsis of rocket exhaust trailing off into silence. The death of Armstrong completes the fragmented sentence and provides an unofficial end to the first generation of space pioneers.

So much has been written about the impact of space exploration on Generation X. Older generations point to a lack of appreciation for space discovery while historians and demographers argue a collective persona of distrust of large institutions because of tragedies like the Space Shuttle Challenger. Oh, those O-rings.

Interesting, how, despite this ambivalence and the ever-lingering cynicism of Generation X, the image of Neil Armstrong on the moon became an iconic symbol for Gen Xers through MTV. The image was rotoscoped and the American flag was hand-colored in 80s fashion — most notably the trendy combination of hot pink, bright yellow, and lime green. It became representative of the MTV brand.

MTV rocketed to fame in 1981, just four months after NASA launched the Space Shuttle Program. MTV today looks nothing like the endless stream of videos that occupied my high school summers. I endured hours of Elton John videos in hopes of catching that rare spin of Dennis DeYoung’s Desert Moon. 

All this aside, the first thing I thought of when I read today that Neil Armstrong had died was that he was born five months and one day after my father. I can’t believe my dad has lived longer than the first man on the moon.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Jennifer

     Beautiful sentiment, Rose. Thank you!

  2. Jennifer

    You were nearly born in the sweet spot of 1970!

  3. Jennifer

    Great point about reducing it to entertainment. That’s something I need to percolate on for awhile. I wonder if Xers do that. It seems like they do just the opposite. I have a very faint memory of standing in our driveway in Southern California and looking up at the moon with my dad b/c someone was walking on it. I don’t know if it was Neil Armstrong and the first walk or not…But, I remember my dad holding me. That was the best part. The moon was far away and I couldn’t see a man on it from Sigman Street. =0

  4. Jennifer

    That really sucks. It ruins my whole post, and practically my life in this moment right here. haha! Thanks, for pointing it out Scott. I’m going to keep on pretending it’s Neil until Buzz dies if he hasn’t already. Then, I can blog about it again — I think he is still living b/c he was on Dancing with the Starz. I hope that wasn’t Neil. =0

  5. Scott Christmas

    I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, and I do love your blog, but that’s Buzz Aldrin in the MTV picture, not Neil Armstrong.

  6. Rose Byrd

    Still dreaming with Neil, as he now watches over us, no doubt!

  7. Andi Fisher

    I was in my mom’s belly 🙂  But MTV was a HUGE part of my life – it’s definitely NOT the same channel anymore!

  8. Brett

    I was four, and we were staying at my grandmother’s. Dad woke me up when Armstrong actually left the capsule later in the evening, and he, my grandmother and I watched it on her black and white television with its oval screen set in the huge cabinet; I have a memory of seeing it on that screen that’s more like a snapshot than anything connected to a narrative.

    I missed the moon-bumper when MTV stopped using it, but they were leaving the music to travel on and traffic in the river of uninteresting ordure they now program and I was thus leaving them behind as well.

    On the other hand, maybe the switch away from using the sequence will mean that folks younger than us can remember actual images of Armstrong and Aldrin. I could say it’s a typical Boomer move to take a genuine achievement of someone who went before them and reduce it to entertainment, but that would probably be a little too meta 😉


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