WhizzospaceNotes

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"At times reaching for the stars means you need the will of a nation, at times you need a large rocket, and sometimes you just need open eyes."


16 Jul 2009

Can it Truly Be That Long Ago?

Most of my lifetime... The span between this date in history and practically all of my days are roughly the same. Four whole decades have rolled past since the goal-achieving, practically miraculous flight of Apollo 11 began. From a first person view, that's staggering. Most everything important and vital to my existance, and more deeply, my understanding of the universe, has happened since then. Yet the most significant space event in history unfolded in front of seven year old eyes! I don't have real memories apart from ghostly pictures, and a brief recollection of my father telling me to stay quiet for a few moments. The Saturn was always reassurungly spindly and white, just like a missile should look, and it climbed slowly as Jack King's booming voice called out distance and altitude. Yes, I saw it live on our first new television, a 25 inch Zenith. The thing is, any recall in my brainspace is augmented by years of watching increasingly better collections of restored archival film, so I just can't truthfully call the start of one of humankind's best efforts "something I remember." Further, the bombardment of history begins in full this week - in every form of old and new media. Proper scholars and journalists, aided by amateurs and enthusiasts - many of whom arrived on Earth decades after the events - are ressurrecting the events of 1969. Digital artists have made old media into beautiful new pictures, and even the gritty semi-transparent grey TV images will get modern enhancement. We're seeing the wonders of the first 'full up' voyage to another world through the patina of 40 years, yet utterly refreshed through an amazing range of interpretation. It's a no-kidding renaissance for space enthusiasts as the books, videos, interactive Web pages, and musings of we geeks fill our shelves and heads.

Three men, armored by the best technology ever manufactured, were shooting for a very specific goal: Mare Tranquilitatus (Sea of Tranquility), near Moltke crater. Yet

Whew, that was a heck of a first try at visiting another world. Frankly, we hit as many interesting places as we could in the few landings we had from 1969-1972. The astronauts met the tough challenge of landing in all kinds of terrain, and the geologists got over 800 lbs/400 kg of different pieces of the Moon to study. But what else did these landings show us? For many folks, the Moon has a great distinction over other astronomical objects, because it’s a “real place.” We’ve been there! It’s close enough to show very familiar things like mountains and valleys, and you can see the general areas of the landings on many nights. Right now, NASA is working on Project Constellation, to take an Orion spaceship and an Artemis lander back to the Moon. Please take a look at “La Bella Luna” when you can, and let’s hope the next Moonwalkers are getting ready to go!

-- JW


"The Lighter Side of Going to the Moon"