Fog-banked again this Monday morning on California’s north coast, breaking a four-day trend of early-in-the-morning sunshine and a return to the gloomy gray of summer.
This afternoon, however, will most-likely be gorgeous — warm, clear and with a nice sea breeze. If life allows…
In this current era of weird, of bloody killings and terrible events, today is the 46th anniversary of the real-last great human adventure — the moon landing.
(Illustration: Ed Aldrin, ‘Apollo 11 Moon Landing,’ found here).
Similar to the plot of some sci-fi novel, we worked, and died (‘Apollo 7’) to reach a goal, then just seemed to lose interest.
Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind,” slowed to a jump, then a walk, then onto couch potato.
And much more realistic: ‘Nineteen minutes later, Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin Jr. joined Armstrong on the surface, and cried: “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, a magnificent desolation.”‘
Henceforth, we shuttled ourselves into emptiness.
On this quiet, celebratory day, a most-interesting excerpt at LongReads of Margaret Lazarus Dean’s new book, “Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight,” makes sense. She looks at America’s romance with space, from the start until the crush left the romance — such a good read, might have to go and buy the book (after it comes out in paperback, of course). (h/t The Big Picture)
A key note:
Everyone agrees that NASA’s finest hour was the journey of Apollo 11, which left Earth with Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins aboard on July 16, 1969.
During the three days it took them to get to the moon, the astronauts grew beards, took measurements of the stars out their windows using sextants to make sure they were still on course, chatted with Houston, listened to music on tape, shot films of each other doing somersaults and making ham sandwiches in microgravity, got mildly on one another’s nerves, and refrained from considering the enormity of their undertaking.
Each of them has said in the years since that they actively kept themselves from thinking about the long chain of risky events it would take to get them back home.
This particular avoidance was an ability they had honed as test pilots of experimental aircraft.
It seems desirable for astronauts to be able to resist grand and potentially panic-inducing trains of thought, yet all three of them have expressed regret that this same character trait kept them from being able to adequately convey to us spectators what it was like to experience the things they experienced.
It’s difficult for those of us born in a later era to imagine the historical phenomenon of Apollo, a moment when Americans came together over an enormous science project funded entirely by the federal government.
We must take our elders at their word when they talk about what this was like, as we’ve never seen such a thing ourselves.
Some years, during the run-up to Apollo, Congress voted to allocate NASA a larger budget than NASA had requested.
The effects of this kind of public support were unprecedented outside of war, and may never be seen again.
As important as this financial support was for the early days of Apollo, it also created a tragically inaccurate impression within NASA that its projects would continue to be funded at this rate.
In the mid-sixties, everyone thought the construction of the Kennedy Space Center was taking place at the start of an exciting new era.
No one could have known that in fact 1966 was to represent the zenith of that unanimity.
The public’s imagination for fulfilling President Kennedy’s challenge would prove more shortsighted than anyone at NASA had hoped.
And America was in love with some space boys — even afterwards the glow rang true. but maybe from the high-drama of the Apollo 13 adventure less than a year later, the public seemed to loose interest as the 70s worked the steam out of space travel.
Baying-screaming at the moon — a place far away, touchable a long time ago.