I can no longer recall when I first decided to do science. However, there is no question in my mind that it was the romance and excitement of the space age, the wonders that science and technology were capable of, that were largely responsible for my decision to make a career in science.
Yuri Gagarin was one of my boyhood heroes. (It didn't hurt that photos of him circulated by the Russian Cultural Centre made him look like a Greek God). Unfamiliar Russian names like Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, the dog Laika were household names in our family. (With animal rights activists far into the future, nobody thought of asking the obvious question - what happened to Laika?) Even my grandfather, a man born towards the closing years of the 19th century, would read me stories about the space faring nations - mainly the USSR, and then gradually the US. Thus, by the time Armstrong walked on the moon, 40 years ago (and fluffed his lines though we didn't know it then), we considered ourselves veterans of the space age. Armstrong and Aldrin's feat merely appeared to be the glorious culmination of an age of technological marvels. Most of us dreamed of being part of this romance of science and of technology, some went into engineering, I took the road to a scientific career.
We, of our generation, are truly children of the space age.
See the full sequence of clips at the New York Times