This edition of Disney Archaeology does a little bit of digging and tackles a subject that sometimes is harder to cover or discern. This edition might best be titled; Walt Disney the Moonwalker.
Now, immediately you might be wondering if Walt Disney was a dancer that never was discovered or if he had a flair for dance that somehow escaped the stories in the Disney history books. Neither of those things would be true. To understand this chapter of Disney Archaeology, you have to go back in time to day a 13 year old boy named Steve Bales, during the Christmas season of 1955, sat spellbound watching the Disneyland television program. The episode that gripped his attention was “Man and the Moon.”
In a book entitled “Apollo Moon Missions” the grown up version of that 13 year old boy would share, “This show, probably more than anything else, influenced me to study aerospace engineering.”
Ah, now I know what you are thinking. This is a story of how the work of Walt Disney inspired someone… and you would be right, partially – but there is much more than that to this story. Steve Bales grew up, went to work for NASA in 1964 as a summer intern. Three months later he was hired by NASA as flight controller and he was active in the Gemini space missions. Eventually, he was the lead guidance officer for Gemini 11 and Gemini 12, then moved on and became a part of the Apollo space program.
Now twenty seven years of age, he was named the lead guidance officer for Apollo 11. This historic mission would forever be remembered and he was at Mission Control as astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their descent to the lunar surface.
The Eagle, the lunar landing module was 33,000 feet above the moon when Neil Armstrong radioed to Mission Control the words “Program Alarm.” Unraveling this warning meant that the computer was performing too many tasks and was overloaded. This was one of the worst case scenarios that they had been concerned about. It was a critical safety problem. It was then that a NASA guidance specialist asked Bales if the lunar landing should proceed or abort.
It is amazing to get the chance to look back on the power of a decision. Bales had six seconds to process all that was going on. Calculate what was happening with the computer and then come up with the definitive word that could change the course of the mission. Bales radioed CAPCOM and said, “We’re GO on that alarm.”
Armstrong and Aldrin were given the word – “We’re GO!” Then in three and a half of the most anxious moments in history, they waited until they heard the words from the surface of the moon. “The Eagle has landed.”
Now we come back and revisit the power of the way we inspire others. If Walt Disney had not produced and aired “Man and the Moon” that December of 1955, then it is likely that Steve Bales never would have been standing in Mission Control and given a six second window to make the critical “go” or “abort” decision on July 20, 1969. If Bales is not there, who knows who might have made the decision or what the decision would have been. If the decision was “abort” there never would have been the first historic landing that night and there never would have been the first historic moonwalk as recorded in history books. Walt Disney and the Moonwalker is not just a story about inspiration. It is also a story about influence. It is also a story about imagination, and it is a story about ingenuity. All of those were wrapped up in the package of young guidance officer who has been changed by a television special created by a dreamer who could not only see but couldn’t wait to chase the future.
Our lives, in good times and tough times, have the ability to inspire, influence, ignite the imagination, and unleash ingenuity. The way we do it is by living in the moment and looking toward the future. Walt Disney was the embodiment of that. His vision allowed him to see what was there but what was not there – yet. As we bring out best to life each day, never underestimate the power of what you do and how you do it. It can change the world and change the lives of others – forever.