I remember watching Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set foot on our Moon on July 20, 1969. I was in high school but it was summer vacation so all of my friends had been outside being teenagers. But everyone went home to watch the astronauts.
I went home before 3 pm EST because that was supposed to be when they would be landing. I looked it up today and Apollo 11’s Eagle lunar module landed at 20:17 GMT (3:17 my time) and then Neil Armstrong (who was closest to the door) was the first man to step on the Moon.
They landed in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility. When his feet touched the ground Armstrong spoke words that would become famous: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He later said that he had actually said “That’s one small step for a man” but the audio cut out and the “a” was lost.
Buzz Aldrin called for a moment of silence shortly after the landing to give thanks for their survival. I read today but I don’t recall that he took communion with a wafer and a tiny chalice of wine.
Buzz Aldrin grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, not far from my hometown. In 2016, his hometown middle school in Montclair was renamed Buzz Aldrin Middle School. I was the poet-in-the-schools person there for a few years. Students knew a bit about him – astronaut, Moon landing – but almost nothing about the actual landing or the space program. When I told them about watching the landing, they looked at me as if I was time traveler. I must be as old as their grandfather.
A teacher there told me that when they did the dedication Aldrin came to the school for an assembly and was kind of cranky and a bit “inappropriate” in his remarks to the pre-teens. Hey, he had been on the Moon!
The video from the Moon landing was not very good quality by today’s standards but the idea that it was coming from so far away made it amazing. Most people today still have no real understanding of how that picture appears on their Tv screen whether it travels by antenna, cable, or from their phone.
I have to shake my head and wonder about people who still doubt that we ever landed on the Moon. There is something in humans that seems to be attracted to conspiracies and doubt. My favorite crazy theory is that director Stanley Kubrick did 2001: A Space Odyssey the year before. One source claims that Kubrick initially declined the offer, only relenting when NASA threatened to out his little brother as a member of the Communist Party. Knowing what I do about Kubrick, he would have had a hard time shooting bad video because he was so demanding as a director.
That theory (which came mostly from one person and one book he wrote called held that Kubrick spent 18 months on a soundstage shooting the footage for the Apollo 11 and 12 Moon missions. Hey, in his 1980 film The Shining, the boy does wear an Apollo 11 sweater at one point. The 1978 film, Capricorn One, is about a journalist who uncovers a government hoax about astronauts landing on Mars. That prepares us for how they will fake the Mars landing one day.
I still look in wonder at the Moon most nights and it still seems incredible that we can send a spacecraft to the Moon or Mars. And how about that a telescope is now orbiting around the Sun at a distance of nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth and sending back amazing photos of stars and planets? Using the JWST, we will be able to capture extremely distant galaxies as they were only 100 million years after the Big Bang – which happened around 13.8 billion years ago. We will be able to see light from 13.7 billion years ago. That must be fake too, right?
|The “Phantom Galaxy” NGC 628 as seen by the James Webb Space Telescope NASA/ESA/CSA/STSCI/JUDY SCHMIDT|
Crossposted from the One-Page Schoolhouse website