I recently saw an editorial cartoon showing a series of “firsts” – Laika, the first dog in space. Yuri, the first man in space. Neil, the first man on the moon. And Rosetta – the first instrument to land on a comet whizzing through space at enormous speed. Wow!

I vividly remember Neil Armstrong’s first lunar step. John Glenn orbiting Earth. Even when Alan Shepard’s 1961 Freedom 7 flight lifted into the heavens – lifting our hearts to astronomical heights of euphoric patriotism. The chant “U-S-A! U-S-A!” hadn’t been coined yet – but the word “goosebumps” had. And we all had ’em. Wow again!

Nowadays, for some, the same breathtaking thrill exists when Apple launches a new iPhone. Admittedly, there are more sophisticated electronics in a smartphone than in space capsules. I marvel at mind-boggling devices designed to make our lives more comfortable and productive. I prefer “productive” to “easier” – there’s no discovery in “easy,” no “Aha!” moment.

The holidays always make me wax nostalgic for an America that today is somehow not the way life used to be. I lament those days, when prudent funding allocated for space exploration superseded unlimited funding for exploring whatever it is we’re seeking in the Middle East morass.

Our seasonal and delusional prayer for “peace on Earth, good will to men” is highly improbable as long as (mostly men) take religion and antiquated “Scripture” so seriously and literally. Do you think God really cares about religion? But indeed, I digress.

Back to cartoons. I saw a beauty in The New Yorker. Two spacemen discover a woman’s body, clad in a housecoat, sprawled on the moon’s surface. The kneeling spaceman says, “It’s Alice Kramden.”

Perhaps now you’re smiling. If so – here’s to Alan Shepard. And to you, too, old-timer. Happy holidays!

Buddy Doyle