I went to boarding school in Liverpool and was allowed to get up in the middle of the night on July 19, into the morning of July 20.
This was unusual.
Normally, our lives were governed by Dickensian regulations: lights out exactly 30 minutes after going to bed, with horsehair mattresses and iron bedsteads in a bleak, unheated dormitory.
Gradgrind would have felt very much at home.
Nevertheless, permission was granted to stay up and gather in one of the small common rooms which had a television.
Midnight saw a cluster of pyjama’d boys shivering, whilst focused entirely on the palely flickering images which were being transmitted, in a magical fashion, from the moon.
This was 1969. I was 13.
I was watching one of the most historic moments of my life, along with the Kennedy assassination, the twin towers atrocities and the birth of my children.
I can close my eyes and recall these events as if they were happening in front of me.
As we watched, we were absolutely silent.
To reduce a group of adolescent boys to silence is a feat worthy of mention, but it happened. It really was spellbinding.
Now, from today’s perspective, watching the footage is a little passé, as it has been viewed so many times.
But the sense of witnessing this moment of history was profound.
I can remember being singularly impressed with the fact that these were live images – from the moon! It was just marvellous.
I suppose that an experience such as walking around on the moon would change you.
After all, you are a member of a pretty select group. Twelve people have actually set foot on the moon.
Many more have scaled Everest or sailed solo around the world.
It is a journey fraught with danger and when we look back now at the technology deployed to accomplish this, it looks laughably out of date – almost like a movie set. And yet it happened.
But it is a topic of hot debate.
Why invest so much just to visit an arid, uninteresting and dead little chunk of rock?
It isn’t as if anyone has ever gone back. There is talk of visiting Mars. Why do it?
The world is divided by questions such as these.
There are people who feel the money could have, should have, been better spent. Perhaps by helping people on Earth.
There are people who believe we need to explore, to push the boundaries of our understanding and knowledge, to seek answers to the “can we do it” question.
I think I fall into the latter category.
I can recall a programme on the telly called Fireball XL5, where the puppet hero, Colonel Steve Zodiac, patrolled space for the World Space Patrol.
The theme music, closing the show, had the immortal lyric: “I wish I was a spaceman, the fastest guy alive. I’d fly you off to Jupiter, in Fireball XL5.”
Watching the moon landing 50 years ago tonight, that is exactly how I felt.
I still do. I would love to have been an astronaut.
l Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – firstname.lastname@example.org