That's "unreal" in the "outasight" sense, hyper-real in fact, full of promise for the wondrous world of tomorrow we were sure was soon to follow. "We came in peace for all mankind," but mostly we came for fear of a Soviet lunar eclipse.
A generation later, that boy would encounter college students who doubted the reality of the achievement. "Nah, that didn't happen." But it did, kids. Uncle Walter was no faker.
They probably can't understand why some of us, of that earlier generation, get so excited now by a drone flyby of Pluto. We'd surprise our own younger selves, having then thought we'd go more boldly into the final frontier than this, by now. It's taken the better part of that boy's lifetime to reach those new horizons. Just getting there is hugely gratifying, and (as the Times details) could easily have not happened.
The span of a human lifetime is, we must remind ourselves, barely a blip on the cosmic ocean. Carl Sagan left lots of good reminders, like this one from Pale Blue Dot:
"Two billion years ago, our ancestors were microbes; a half-billion years ago, fish, a hundred million years ago, something like mice; ten million years ago, arboreal apes; and a million years ago, proto-humans puzzling out the taming of fire. Our evolutionary lineage is marked by mastery of change. In our time, the pace is quickening."Taking a wider view, the disappointed man who was that impatient boy can better appreciate just how far we've come and how much further we still can go, "in our time." For real.
6:30 am/5:47, 81/95