The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: July 20, 2019

This is a replica of the plaque which the Apollo 11 astronauts left behind on the moon in commemoration of the historic event. The plaque is made of stainless steel, measuring nine by seven and five-eighths inches, and one-sixteenth inch thick. The plaque was attached to the ladder on the landing gear strut on the descent stage of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM). Covering the plaque during the flight was a thin sheet of stainless steel which was removed on the lunar surface. Photo Credit: NASA

We have only one subject today…

Today is the 50th anniversary of the day when human beings first stepped foot on the moon. Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins flew their spacecraft to the moon, and then Armstrong and Aldrin took the lunar lander to the surface. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong descended the ladder, put his foot on the moon’s surface and said, “That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.”

I was 13 years old. The only thing more exciting to me that summer was that the Cubs were in first place and it looked like they were going to win the pennant. Alas, the “Miracle Mets” passed them and this young boy’s dreams were dashed. But we went to the moon! And I was one of millions of people who were glued to the TV set watching every movement, intent on every word spoken. Like the little boy in this wonderful photo, I was transfixed.

Photo by Steve Strange at Flickr

A few facts you might not know about Apollo 11 and its story…

  • Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module (LM) “Eagle” during the Apollo 11 exravehicular activity (EVA).

    Neil Armstrong almost died during training for Apollo 9, when the lunar module he was testing crashed.

  • It took 400,000 people to make the moon mission happen.
  • The spacesuits they wore were made by Playtex, who convinced NASA that they knew something about making garments that were both form-fitting and flexible! The division that emerged from Playtex still makes spacesuits for NASA.
  • The Apollo computer was the first computer of any significance to use integrated circuits — computer chips.
  • Goodyear made the tires for the lunar rovers, using a mesh made of piano wire in the shape of a tire, which gave the rover traction and allowed some of the dirt to slip inside. As the wheels turned, the mesh flexed open, the dirt dropped back out and the wheels returned to their tire shape. Each tire required 3,000 feet of piano wire.
  • When the original landing area turned out to be full of large boulders, Neil Armstrong took the controls of the Lunar Module, skimmed across the top of the Lunar surface, and manually found a safe spot to touch down. When they landed at Tranquility Base, they had only 17 seconds of fuel left.
  • Buzz Aldrin said the moon smelled like burnt charcoal.
  • Only three people in the country were trained and licensed by the FAA to fold Apollo parachutes — Norma Cretal, Buzz Corey and Jimmy Calunga — and they handled all 11 Apollo missions. Their skills were considered so essential that NASA forbade them from ever riding in the same car together lest they all perish in an accident.
  • The heat shield on the re-entry vehicle was made of a special resin that was held in a honeycomb framework consisting of 370,000 individual cells. These had to be filled one by one by hand. The labor was done mostly by women who came to be called “gunners,” and they required two week’s training before they could work.
  • Upon re-entry, the Service Module separated from the Command Module, which held the crew. The Service Module was supposed to have then performed a series of maneuvers to take it out of the way, so that debris from it breaking up would not endanger the Command Module. However, this did not happen, and luckily, the crew made it home safely. The problem wasn’t discovered until much later and it was learned that Apollo 8, 10, 11 and 12 all had the same unrecognized flaw. Any one of those missions could have ended in disaster.
  • The crew was quarantined for 3 weeks after returning from the moon for fear of “moon bugs” they might have brought back to earth.

The journey of Apollo 11 in pictures…

Moonbound Apollo 11 clears the launch tower

Earthrise viewed from lunar orbit prior to landing

American broadcast journalist and TV news anchor Walter Cronkite keeps his eyes on his monitor as NASA’s Apollo 11 mission touches down on the moon, July 20, 1969. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo ll mission commander, at the modular equipment storage assembly (MESA) of the Lunar Module “Eagle” on the historic first extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface. Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. took the photograph with a Hasselblad 70mm camera. Most photos from the Apollo 11 mission show Buzz Aldrin. This is one of only a few that show Neil Armstrong (some of these are blurry).

Aldrin saluting after planting the American flag

Aldrin assembles seismic equipment

Panorama view of Apollo 11 Lunar surface photos taken by Astronaut Neil Armstrong at Tranquility Base of a crater Armstrong noted during the Lunar Module descent. The panoramas were built by combining Apollo 11 images starting with frame AS11-40-5954 through end frame AS11-40-5961. The panoramic images received minimal retouching by NASA imagery specialists, including the removal of lens flares that were problematic in stitching together the individual frames and blacking out the sky to the lunar horizon. These adjustments were made based on observations of the Moon walkers who reported that there are no stars visible in the sky due to the bright lunar surface reflection of the Sun.

The lunar module approaches the command module to dock after lifting off from the moon, with earthrise in the background

Apollo 11 astronauts, still in their quarantine van, are greeted by their wives upon arrival at Ellington Air Force Base

Apollo 11 had competition, won the race…

Apollo 11 was not alone out there in space circling the moon. The Soviet spacecraft Luna 15, in an attempt to outpace the U.S. effort, reached the moon before the American ship entered orbit. The unmanned spacecraft was there to land, scoop up moon rocks, and return to earth with the first samples from the lunar surface. It was the USSR’s last ditch effort to win the “space race.”

The Luna program began long before we here in the U.S. set a course for the moon — back in 1955. Amy Shira Teitel gives an overview of its accomplishments:

…The climax of the program as [Sergei Korolev] conceived of it was a sample return mission.

The sample return would be fairly simple. A modular spacecraft with a descent stage, ascent stage and Earth return vehicle would land on the surface. Once there, an instrument would then collect a sample and transfer it to the Earth return vehicle. Sample collection complete, the ascent stage would fire, sending the sample on its way back towards Earth. The descent stage would stay on the lunar surface.

…The first Luna mission launched on January 2, 1959, and from the start the program was a stunning success, especially given how early it was in the space age. The program accomplished a number of space firsts: the first flyby (Luna 1), the first spacecraft to impact the Moon (Luna 2), the first spacecraft to photograph the Moon’s far side (Luna 3), and the first spacecraft to land on the Moon (Luna 9), first robotic sample return (Luna 16) and first robotic rover (Luna 17). Yes, a handful of Luna missions ended with crashes and some never even reached orbit, but progress was steady and overall the program was a stunning success.

Luna 15 was at least the second attempt at a lunar sample return mission; a previous effort in June had failed to reach Earth orbit. But it wasn’t limited to sample return. On its way to the Moon the spacecraft would study circumlunar space, the lunar gravitational field, the chemical composition of lunar rocks, and take a bunch of photographs.

NASA was concerned that Luna 15, which they figured would get to the moon about the same time as Apollo 11 might disrupt their communications with the U.S. astronauts. Luna 15 did indeed beat Apollo 11 to moon orbit, arriving on July 17, 1969. When the Eagle landed, Luna 15 was still in orbit, making 52 trips around the moon in all. But as the U.S. astronauts prepared to leave the moon’s surface, Luna began getting ready to descend. And descend it did, though it would never return to earth. Before Armstrong and Aldrin lifted off, Luna 15 crashed into Mare Crisium, the Sea of Crises.

Soon the Americans left the surface, reunited with the Command Module and Michael Collins, and returned to earth triumphant.

The first food eaten on the moon was holy…

The “personal preferences” bag taken by Buzz Aldrin, in which he took communion elements and a chalice.

“This is the LM pilot. I would like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

Those were Buzz Aldrin’s words shortly after the Eagle lunar lander touched down on the moon on July 20, 1969. Reaching into his astronaut’s “personal preference bag,” he pulled out a small chalice, wine, and bread, read John 15:5 silently to himself from a note card, and then partook of the Body and Blood of Christ.

“I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me,” he recalled in a 1970 article for Guideposts magazine. “In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.”

Aldrin’s church, Webster Presbyterian Church in Houston, known as the “church of the astronauts” because so many astronauts and NASA employees found a faith community there, still celebrates Lunar Communion Sunday every year on the Sunday closest to the July 20 anniversary of the moon landing.

71 thoughts on “The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: July 20, 2019

  1. But local education/school building budgets don’t contribute to NASA’s funds. We could divert money from giving the military hardware they don’t want and nuclear weapons they don’t need (How many times do we have to be able to kill everybody on earth before it’s enough?), but that seems to be anathema to the government. Trump’s “Space Force” isn’t about exploration, but would violate a ton of treaties about banning weapons in space, so it’s not really going to go anywhere when he’s out of office. I want space ships and astronauts and missions to . . .
    somewhere we haven’t been before. I want to know what’s out there!


  2. For him, a Space Force isn’t about science, exploration, knowledge, wonder; it’s about militarization, exploitation, monetization, conquest. He imagines a Trump Tower on the moon or Mars, among many other profitable ventures, he imagines his name posted on signs all over the galaxy. That’s why he wants a Space Force.


  3. I think both sides in this argument are “right” – you, Christine, are being charitable (the innocent dove, if you like) and the others in this thread do have grounds for their suspicion (wise serpents?) as Seneca Griggs does have a history.


  4. Speaking of the “long view of history”…

    The US standard railroad gauge

    The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.

    Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US railroads.

    Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines
    were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and
    that’s the gauge they used.

    Why did “they” use that gauge then? Because the people who built the
    tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons
    which used that wheel spacing.

    Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if
    they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on
    some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the
    spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first
    long distance roads in Europe (and England ) for their legions. The
    roads have been used ever since.

    And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts,
    which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon
    wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were
    all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States
    standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the
    original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

    Bureaucracies live forever.

    So the next time you are handed a Specification/ Procedure/ Process
    and wonder “What horse’s ass came up with it?” you may be exactly

    Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate
    the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses’ asses.)

    Now, the twist to the story:

    When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two
    large booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.
    These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol
    at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would
    have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be
    shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad
    line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the Rocky
    Mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is
    slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you
    now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

    So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the
    world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two
    thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass. And you thought
    being a horse’s ass wasn’t important? Ancient horse’s asses control
    almost everything….and CURRENT Horses Asses are controlling
    everything else!!


  5. I watched about six hours of From the Earth to the Moon miniseries today on HBO2, first broadcast in 1998. I forgot in my Apollo 11 post (it was 1 item on a list actually) to mention that Buzz Aldrin was Presbyterian and took communion before exiting the lander. I’ll fix it one day next week. Thanks for all this stuff.


  6. Thank you for the background. I didn’t know any of that, I was just thinking of Sinatra’s version.


  7. The Pentagon probably spends more for toilet tissue in a single day than NASA’s yearly budget. The Military is so flush with cash the Defense Department can misappropriate billions to the shrugs of our elected representatives At every election some politician runs on the issue of “rebuilding” the military which of course has been sadly neglected. And no one wants to be considered soft on defense. The defense establishment no doubt encourages the view that prioritizing resources never includes the Military.


  8. The Google doodle all this week has been of the moon landing, and it’s a four or five-minute video narrated by Michael Collins. He saw and took pictures of Earthrise, and says something like, “There was the Earth. That’s what this was all about.” He also says that wherever he went on tours after Apollo 11, people didn’t say to him, “you did it!” or “America did it.” They said “We did it!” Humankind did it.

    On a different note (or maybe not), my mom could remember often riding in a one-horse open sleigh, AND she got to watch men walk on the moon. Incredible progress in technology, and an incredible generation.


  9. I second Dana’s comment. I have often marveled at the depth and breadth of your contributions to the comment section of this blog. Please do consider her advice.


  10. I think I lost my desire for tremendous expense needed for space exploration when one of the main walls in our school building began to separate from the building and had to be strapped on by engineers and monitored with devices and alarms were installed to warn us to ‘get out’ if it began to destruct suddenly . . . . . .

    well, my school system took care of it, eventually, after I retired . . . . they knocked the old building down and built a whole new school on the same marsh land (it was what was affordable, I guess) go figure.


    But still, I WANT THE EXCITEMENT BACK ALSO . . . . I think we NEED to look ahead and keep moving forward. Just not at the cost of our children’s educations. 🙂


  11. Who is the uniquely great American folk singer ? “Fly Me to the Moon”, originally titled “In Other Words”, is a song written in 1954 by Bart Howard. Kaye Ballard made the first recording of the song in 1954…

    “Fly Me to the Moon”, originally titled “In Other Words”, is a song written in 1954 by Bart Howard. Kaye Ballard made the first recording of the song in 1954. Since then it has become a frequently recorded jazz standard often featured in popular culture; Frank Sinatra’s 1964 version was closely associated with the Apollo missions to the Moon, and the Japanese animated series Neon Genesis Evangelion played the song at the end of each episode.


  12. and I have my own opinion, but I don’t have the ‘right’ to speak it here, except that Chaplain Mike allows me to do it, for which I am grateful

    You ARE entititled to your own opinion and I back that up mightily. I’m just glad we still live in a country where people CAN express their thoughts without fearfulness, as long as they are civil and law-abiding when they do this. We may lose this in future, so I don’t take anything for granted anymore. Please speak your mind, if you are allowed to do it here by Chaplain Mike. I have no quarrel with that.

    My thought is that sometimes a person is ‘pre-judged’ on past performances and then that may color the reaction of others to anything that follows. If we want to see something in what someone says, and it’s not there, then what have WE done? Do our past experiences so color our opinions that we are no longer open to trying to understand one another fairly?

    I pre-judge politicians who say one thing one day and change it the next and then change it back again: you can’t take them at their word in any case. They aren’t ‘reliable’.
    So I am also at risk for jumping to conclusions about the intent of others. But it doesn no good. We have to find the better way. I’m not sure I know how. But we must try.


  13. We reached the moon! And over the following years, we dialed back our space exploration programs–not to the point of actually ending all our missions, just to the point of draining the excitement from them. Why did we do that? I want it back!


  14. Well I think it’s because your age modulates your experience of an event, even a shard event.


  15. I find it interesting that people don’t, as a rule, volunteer their age, but they will freely tell you how old they were exactly 50 years ago.


  16. Since my earliest memories I was interested in science, technology and space. Science fiction and non-fiction, like the Bell Telephone Science Series on TV as an example of the latter, helped to nurture that. In August of 1960 it was exciting to go outside our home and look into the sky and see the Echo communications satellite. I was just shy of ten years old. My youngest brother had just been born. One evening, my grandmother, still a young woman, was gazing at him and remarked to me “Just think, he might live to see them go to the moon.” Have always remembered her saying it. It would be months later that JFK would make his announcement that we would do that. I was 18 and preparing to start my sophomore year of college when the first moon landing took place. The rate of progress was so great in those days, that if you had asked me then, I would have thought we would have colonies on Pluto by now.


  17. The Germans learned tank warfare and combined arms attacks from the Allies in WWI. The Allies promptly forgot what they invented – the Germans never forgot.


  18. It is there IMO-consider the source of this ugly-uncalled for comment–he does this quite often here.He has every right to post whatever is allowed here, but I also have the right to call him out when I believe he crossed the line. I will say no more on this matter.


  19. Also loved the words from ‘An American Tune’

    ‘we come on the ship that sailed the moon’


  20. Actually I read somewhere that von Braun, when asked what ignited the German rocket technology said it was the our own Robert Goddard and why did we not listen to him.


  21. I see it as more of a reminder that tragedy and triumph are often both present at the same time and we deal with them together.


  22. Alas, I was born too late to witness any of this… but hopefully, I’ll be around when we do it again, or even further.

    I saw this beautiful quote from Carl Sagan today:

    A scientific colleague tells me about a recent trip to the New Guinea Highlands, where she visited a stone age culture hardly contacted by Western civilization. They were ignorant of wristwatches, soft drinks, and frozen food. But they knew about Apollo 11. They knew that humans had walked on the moon. They knew the names of Armstrong, and Aldrin, and Collins. They wanted to know who is visiting the moon these days.


  23. When it comes to HSR, you have to think long term. It will get used and will serve us well far into the future. It will become an increasingly viable option to driving. But you are right that the execution of it in California was bungled.
    I live in CA also and I don’t mind paying higher taxes when we get something for it, which we increasingly are.

    And we are still going to space, just mostly unmanned craft, which is more efficient and economical for most things. We need exploration and knowledge for its own sake. In almost ever case where we’ve done this, we have seen benefits that really help us here. The moonshot program propelled technology and materials science in everyday life also.


  24. Fighter Pilots today can be up to 6’5″ tall. Back then they had to be shorter to fit in the cockpits and not hit the top of the canopy. Most fighters pilots for the 50 years after WWII were on the shorter side.


  25. Coming from you, Dana, that is a great compliment. Most of the time I feel like I’m just flying by the seat of my pants when I write these comments, and not doing such a good job of it, today included, but your comment made me smile and feel good about myself on a day I need it. Thank you, and I shall consider your advice seriously.


  26. We live in California and we are glad that the high speed rail system that was planned is stopped. We are moving someplace else when we can as the taxes and cost of living is too high here. Jerry, my fiancé was in Germany and the countries are smaller and most people use the trains but not here in California. Why did the Presidents decide not to keep going to space before President Trump came in? I think we should spend the money here. Jerry drives to Los Angles sometimes for work and it is really getting bad downtown he says. We want to leave here before we have children and hope who ever is President does good things for the country.


  27. I was also 13 (I’m a few months older than Chaplain Mike and a couple of months younger than HUG). My dad was out of town on business. My mom and my sister and I were getting ready to go to the Catholic parish summer BBQ fundraising meal. We saw the first step; mom was ready to go; I wanted to watch some more, but mom’s will prevailed. It was a foggy day on the northern California coast, and that particular Sunday the fog did not lift as was usual. We ate our chicken, salad and corn on the cob at redwood picnic tables which were a feature of part of the Gorra Ranch, which is normally behind the “fog belt” and would usually be sunny by the middle of the day, but not that day. It was chilly cold, and everyone wore their jackets and shivered if they weren’t moving around. The moon was not visible in the sky for us that day – we could only see it on TV; that part of it, looking back, was the most surreal to me.



  28. Robert,

    You’re a hell of a writer. I think you should at the very least compile your memoirs, and commit more of your thoughts to paper (essays). No one else has your point of view, and you express it far better than most. Think about it.



  29. I heard Buzz Aldrin being interviewed yesterday on Relevant Radio, and when asked about his faith, he said that he still believes in a ‘higher power’, but is basically an agnostic.


  30. I was growing up overseas at the time and my older brother woke me up in the middle of the night to listen to the landing on a radio that had its aerial connected to a metal window screen to boost the signal. I though it was fascinating and compelling.
    And now we can’t even complete a single high speed rail line, while other countries have dozens. The national mood is not one of vision or hope or inspiration. We have a leader that conducts rallies filled with hate for the very people who would help make our nation greater. We are falling behind rapidly even as ignorant leaders keep insisting how great we are.


  31. I myself did not see anything mean-spirited in his comment. He pointed out a very striking and interesting contrast that he remembered from that time.
    I remember how people made up jokes about Mary Jo’s character; now that was mean-spirited. It was a horrible death for that poor girl, yes. I remember feeling sorry for Joan Kennedy who already had a host of problems and sadness in her life; and I felt badly for Ms. Kopechne’s family, of course.

    In some way, I think Ted tried to live out the rest of his service by trying to do some good, but that is my own opinion.

    I wonder what he might have said about today’s political drama. (?) I know he would at least not be silent or be intimidated into silence.


  32. I was with friends in DC and saw him. It was in a large cafeteria, and he was pointed out to me, but I remember thinking how small in stature he seemed. I don’t know why I expected him to be larger, but I did.
    He was wearing a business suit, not a uniform and sat alone. It’s a strange memory. This would have been sometime in the very early ’70s. I would not have recognized him if friends hadn’t pointed him out.


  33. Taking the long view of US history, that cycle between optimism and pessimism, between hopefulness and fear, has happened over and over again. That’s what I try to keep telling myself – that it may not happen immediately, but sooner or later the pendulum will swing in the other direction and instead of so many people being driven by fearful visions and grievance and despair, we’ll again reach a time when there are hopeful and compelling visions of the future driving us.

    In the meantime maybe our call as Christians is to be the voices of hope. Even when we’re standing up against injustice, we can do that by presenting people with the beauty of what a just world could look like, and with trust that people are able to change, rather than just focusing on how ugly and despicable certain segments of our population have become. These days whenever I’m making signs for a demonstration, I always ask myself: is this slogan calling the people I’m opposing to discover they can be something better, or just shaming them for what they are?


  34. I’m opposed to sending human beings back to the moon, or beyond that. Unmanned probes do just fine. I’m in favor of boldly trying to fix our problems on this planet, including the environmental ones, instead of trying to find ways to colonize space, exploit, or militarize it.


  35. So you are saying that we should not be bold? It’s easy to play it safe. Space travel is risky. Living life by looking only through the rear view mirror is what the risk adviser do. Our nation is built by the risk takers.

    Our leader are more scared of failure then they are driven by greatness of America.


  36. “I bet you remember the advent of Star Wars” – oh yes. Saw it in the theater right after it opened. SW and D&D sealed my date as a lifelong nerd.

    “and perhaps Blade Runner on the dystopian downside a few years later” – had that on VHS (remember that?) and played it to death. And yes, it did resonate.


  37. Isn’t it ironic that the American moon-landing space project was made possible by the initial research and development undertaken by the Nazis, who set their best scientific minds, such as Wernher von Braun, to the development of ballistic rockets for use in weaponry of mass destruction? And that after the defeat of Nazi Germany, von Braun himself and many other Nazi scientists came over to the Allies to do the very same kind of work for “The Good Guys”?

    No, actually, it’s not ironic at all.


  38. But Steve, we ran into Apollo 13, and then the Challenger disaster. Life was lost, less than irresponsible bureaucracy and poor workmanship in the name of saving money by meeting timetables was found in things like O rings, and then the whole thing didn’t seem so glamorous anymore, or bright. We actually have people in leadership now who want to go back in time to the very era of the moon-landing, who want to return human beings to the Moon and then Mars beyond, who want to develop a Space Force a la Star Wars, who want to revive that whole romanticism about “conquering” space. This is part of what they mean when they talk about making America great again, and this is part of what they want to return to, but many of us are suspicious of their ambitions, and rightly so.


  39. Shame on you. I hope Chaplain Mike, deletes your mean spirited comment. You have cheapened both Ms. Kopechne’s death and the Apollo 11 mission.


  40. I think in my formative years it slowly became apparent to me that, though the Apollo project was a tremendous human feat of science, it was also a military feat, and I became aware of how often scientific advances and military ambitions were traveling companions. The same for the development of nuclear weapons, which also had a tremendous influence on the development of my childhood imagination. Often the great feats of humanity have been feats of science and the military working hand-in-glove, and producing results that were by necessity morally ambivalent, and more and more frequently opening up on dystopian and catastrophic vistas. Mix the mercantile motive into all this, the big dollars that both the military and science command and deploy in research and development, and the picture of “conquest” of space no longer looks so appealing or attractive.


  41. PS: The guy forgotten in all the hoopla is Michael Collins, who didn’t get to stand on the Moon but was privileged to know the truest solitude that a human being can know; alone, incommunicado, the universe in all its unencumbered glory outside his window.


  42. It’s was JFK who challenged America to look to the future and to something great. This is what make America great! When we look to the future and we see the challenges, then we attack the future with optimism.

    Sadly, we don’t have leaders who point us to a bright future but want to go back to time that never existed.


  43. But I bet you remember the advent of Star Wars, and perhaps Blade Runner on the dystopian downside a few years later. Even though I spent the first ten years of my life, the sixties, under the influence of space-travel mania positivity by way of Projects Gemini and Apollo, and their culmination in the moon landing, the Jetsons, and the no-challenge-is-too-great-for-human-inventiveness underlying the original Star Trek, I was over the inebriation by my first year in college, the year after Star Wars was released. I found Blade Runner far more resonant with my feelings about the future when it came out, including its background subtext of dystopian space exploration.


  44. I was nine years old and remember me and my brother being allowed to stay up waaaay past our bedtime, sitting on the rug watching the ghostly images from space. TVs were furniture back then and the very haziness of the images made it seem real. (Today’s high definition images almost makes outer space seem like a Hollywood special effect.)

    In the end why we went diminishes in importance. What the exploration of space gives us is perspective. What person who looks an inch beyond their nose can be immune to the astonishment of seeing an “earthrise”! And who will do a cost benefit analysis on wonder?


  45. I read somewhere that the alloy used on the ship was extremely light and thin compared with the metal body of a car of the same period. As it traveled through the vast space between the earth and moon, if even the tiniest particle of matter moving at not-too great a speed had impacted the ship it would have easily pierced the hull and caused utter destruction of ship and crew. Mind-boggling.


  46. July 20, 1969.

    I was about 1.75 years old on this date. Too young to remember the event obviously.

    But I do recall in my earliest memories the date July 20, 1969 being mentioned on TV a lot.

    This was probably several years after the event! That is how telling the pride this nation had in the Moon landing!

    One of those dates that is seared into our collective consciousness!


  47. I was 8 years old when man landed on the Moon. Like many, I was mesmerized by the event. I’ll never forget that Sunday in which I begged my grandmother, who raised me, “GRANDMAMA…PLEASE…CAN WE GO HOME…PEOPLE ARE ON THE MOON!”

    Thoughts of that day make me change my sermon for tomorrow. “Psalm 139 – Fly Me to the Moon”


  48. Her death was certainly tragic, as were the many deaths that happened in that same brief 48 hours. But I suspect ulterior motives on your part in bringing up this particular death, the real aim being not to mourn her death, but to touch on the scandal surrounding the so-called “Lion”, a hugely influential political figure in America for decades, in relation to it. Call me a cynic, if you like.


  49. I was 9 months old when Apollo 11 landed. In fact, I have no memories of any of the manned lunar missions.


  50. Mary Jo Kopechne died the day before while in the car with the “Lion of the Senate.” So in a brief 48 hrs; a huge triumph, an ugly death.


  51. I was ten years old in 1969. The American moon landing was very exciting to me then. I imagined one day becoming an astronaut myself, escaping earth and its (my) problems, exploring space, visiting other planets and star systems, journeying through the heart of a black hole into the unknown realities on its other side. I remember watching the whole thing unfold on TV, curated by the grave yet excited voices of adult news anchors and experts who seemed to share my own child-like wonder, fears, hopes.

    Yes, it was all so very exciting to me then. Not so much now.


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