With the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing approaching, the web is buzzing with all sorts of stories and angles on this momentous event. To start with, it’s hard to go past the Big Picture’s tribute, which offers some wonderful images ranging from cosmic and epic, right through to the human side of it all (without the usual grainy, black and white look). I especially enjoyed Michael Collins’ image of Eagle returning to the command module, with the accompanying insight that “as I clicked away, I realized that for the first time, in one frame, appeared three billion earthlings, two explorers, and one moon.”
Speaking of Collins, he certainly is quotable. He recently made a statement/self-interview via the NASA website, in which he addressed the question of whether he felt any remorse at not being a part of the actual landing:
Far from feeling lonely or abandoned, I feel very much a part of what is taking place on the lunar surface. I know that I would be a liar or a fool if I said that I have the best of the three Apollo 11 seats, but I can say with truth and equanimity that I am perfectly satisfied with the one I have. This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.
Other things worth checking out include MSNBC’s feature on the anniversary, including Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log entry about video of the mission – from NASA’s work restoring the moonwalk tapes, through to news on the ‘lost videos’ and a glimmer of hope on that front from Australia. This news though seems to put the kaibosh on earlier reports that the lost tapes had already been found…dammit! (I mean, c’mon – I’ve backed up every email for 10 years or so…surely someone at NASA would have put the best video aside for safe-keeping!). History down the toilet.
Now I know some people who read TDG think the whole thing was a hoax. I’m not one of those, but that issue is addressed as well in the mainstream media, most notably by the New York Times.
A dramatic and previously unheard recording of the moment the Russians tried to beat the American’s Moon landing in 1969 has been released by The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. The recordings were made in the Control Room of the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory, where astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell and colleagues were listening to transmissions coming from the moon.
Born in 1970, my childhood was filled with awe at what humanity was achieving in space. I memorised the date of the Apollo 11 landing at a very young age, thinking to myself that it was probably the biggest event in human history – humanity had managed to escape the gravity of its own planet, and step onto another world, separated by the chasm of space. I still struggle to grasp the enormity of that key moment in the evolution of man. I can imagine Apollo 11 and the names of those pioneers that took us into space living on for thousands of years into the future.
Sometimes we forget what it took to do that. Not least the tremendous advances in science and technology. But what must always be remembered is the human aspect. The original thinkers, such as Goddard and von Braun, who dared to think it was possible to leave the planet. And of course the astronauts – go back to that Big Picture gallery, and look at the size of the Saturn V. Imagine strapping yourself to the top of that huge cylinder filled with explosive fuel, trusting in the engineering and the theoretical maths and physics done in figuring out how to send you all the way to the Moon using that big metal cylinder, land you there, then get you back off the surface and then back to the Earth. Michael Collins disputes the use of the word ‘hero’ when it comes to astronauts, saying simply that’s what they “hired on” to do. But I struggle to find any other word to describe them with.
Never, ever forget what humanity did in the 20th century. Don’t let the day-to-day grind of life make you ambivalent or apathetic about the most tremendous accomplishment imaginable. Tell succeeding generations, educate them, inspire them with a tale like no other.