I have something in common with Buzz Aldrin; we both love oatmeal. It's been one of my favorite breakfasts since I was a little girl. I can picture my grandmother with a 1970s-era canister of Quaker Oats. She cooked oatmeal every morning and put a big pat of butter and a squeeze of maple syrup on the top, plus a drizzle of milk along the inside perimeter of my favorite orange plastic bowl, which I ate out of every time.
Those mornings in my grandmother's kitchen weren't too many years after Aldrin ate his oatmeal each day on his 1969 Apollo 11 space journey, including the morning he walked on the moon. Every day, ground control filled in the astronauts on news from around the world, and one news story about an Irishman who won the World Porridge Eating Championship prompted this exchange on July 18, 1969, as recorded in the Apollo 11 space log.
Bruce McCandless in Houston: And in Corby, England, an Irishman, John Coyle, has won the world's porridge eating championship by consuming 23 bowls of instant oatmeal in a 10-minute time limit from a field of 35 other competitors. Over.
Astronaut Michael Collins: I'd like to enter Aldrin in the oatmeal eating contest next time.
McCandless: Is he pretty good at that?
Collins: He's doing his share up here.
McCandless: Let's see. You all just finished a meal not long ago, too, didn't you?
Aldrin: I'm still eating.
McCandless: Okay. Does that — that —
Collins: He's on his — He's on his 19th bowl.
It's not clear if it was his 19th bowl of the mission or Collins was exaggerating or if Aldrin had actually had 19 bowls that day, but what is clear is that Aldrin liked his oatmeal. He still does, and the audio recording of that conversation was recently used in a commercial for Quaker Oats that played in the U.K., but wasn't shown here in the U.S.
It's worth a watch, and here's why: The two-minute commercial shows the liftoff of Apollo 11 with the public and those at Houston Command watching intently. A newscaster declares, "Destination, the moon." It gives you chills. You see the looks on the faces of those in the command center when Apollo 11 safely lands on the moon. There's exuberance, awe and relief on their faces, mixed with a bit of "Did we really just pull that off?" It's inspirational.
It's also particularly relevant at this current moment in time because it reminds of us that science was once revered by our government and citizens alike. I have to wonder if Aldrin and his fellow astronauts would have believed it if you'd told them then that almost 50 years in the future, citizens would have to March for Science to defend it.
Either way, it's an effective piece of advertising. I want a bowl of oatmeal by the end. Don't you?