“The Future Isn’t What It Once Was”

—Neil Armstrong, 1993 speech at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History

Even Neil Armstrong talked about
         global warming, in a gala lecture,
his handwritten speech revisions
         on display here,
Apollo anniversary exhibit.
         He said then that the predictions
were wrong, the science would turn,
         deep strata of polar ice drills
showing trapped gases,
         tree rings in old-growth Chilean alerce
indicating the Industrial Revolution
         didn’t begin to doom us.
He and other human bodies may have
         warmed the surface of the moon
as much as six degrees Fahrenheit
         with the dark dust they kicked
up: regolith. Nearly half a million people
         worked for the U.S. space program.
The rocket that propelled those three
         as they left our collective sphere
burned twenty tons of fuel
         per second. Aldrin’s gold visor
still reflects whatever’s
         in front of it—visitors with cameras.
Their survival kit for landing
         included a desalinator for sea water,
sunscreen, a machete.
         Armstrong died from internal bleeding
in a suburban hospital,
         pacemaker wires from bypass surgery
pulled out wrong. That same year
         97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet
showed signs of melt: a record.
         The exhibit’s centerpiece
is the great capsule, ten feet high,
         tanned with earth tones from
the heat of reentry,
         blunt-end design in which the three
shuddered with the friction
         as they pierced the atmosphere,
part of the body once again.