This post is a little tardy. Last weekend marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon landing. Five decades ago, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin supposedly became the first pair of earthlings to step foot on our night orb. There has been some speculation on the veracity of this adventure. What is harder to douse is the elation the world felt as we witnessed two titans in space. Television at its finest, that’s what it was. Virtually everyone with a telly was glued to their screens. It was Endgame before Avengers, Princess of Wales before the demise of an English rose. I have posted about the mission before, while reviewing the Gosling movie, but this is different. This post tackles the real deal.
I remember reading in World Book many moons ago that ‘space travel is man’s greatest adventure’. There have been dozens, maybe hundreds of manned U.S. missions to space but none that could topple Apollo 11 in consequence. They set out to do what a string of others could not: to put an American on the moon before the sixties was out. It was an odyssey ten years in the making. There were casualties, setbacks, and doubt. Much study and research were needed, and as noted – at the expense of Yankee lives. Astronauts lost their friends, families grieved their loved ones. This was very much the height of the Cold War, the so-called space race. The Soviets and Soyuz were hot on their heels and were first to put a man in the extra-terrestrial. Our satellite remained the next hurdle for galaxy runners. Enter Neil. We have heard of Armstrong’s greatness but of his resilience we may have not. He lost his daughter in the midst of chasing his dreams. He saw his friends vanish as he plotted his journey. His family was against him voyaging, as even he couldn’t promise that he would return after orbit.
The epic was treacherous and flighty, but they soldiered on. The blast off from Florida was textbook, and incredibly, the whole affair went down smoothly. The massive audience on Earth was not disappointed. For about a day, the Apollo crew was docked on the moon. The research they undertook and the samples they brought back, greatly enhanced our understanding of our satellite. Of course, there was the American flag, which they famously planted on the lunar surface. It represented a victory not only for America, but for the whole world. The fact that the flag flew off days later doesn’t taint their heroism.
The first line Armstrong uttered on the lunar surface became stuff of legends. ‘That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ This proves his wisdom, and that NASA chose well in picking him for the pioneering task. Of course, Australia had a role to play in this saga. The satellite dish in country NSW was used in transmitting images from the moon to be beamed across the world. They even made a movie about it, titled The Dish. This was a team effort, more than anything. From the suits in Florida to the dispatchers in Houston, this wasn’t anything but a collaborative, Herculean effort. We have been gifted with the story of a lifetime, thanks to all these tireless hands on deck. The heroics of Armstrong has crossed over towards nearly all media. From books to TV to movies, there is no shortage of Moon adaptations. This past decade alone has seen a proliferation of zero gravity movies, from Gravity to Interstellar, The Martian to Arrival. Whether they’re dystopic such as 2001, or dramatic like Apollo 13, space probing comes in myriad ways.
That all this transpired in 1969 makes this even more remarkable. Fifty years ago, the anchors on telly weren’t even alive. You don’t need to be kicking to know that the technology back then wasn’t the best. In half a century, we’ve managed to produce hoverboards, electric cars, and wireless charging but no one has been back to the night orb during our time. They wore baggy suits – Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. As time went by, the suits would change and so would the colours. The rockets would shift, the dishes employed, even the targets. These days, we are not merely contemplating a return to the moon, but an even more perilous foray into Mars. Private space companies are sprouting up, trying to convince us that we can buy our dreams without rigorous training and support. Armstrong isn’t even around anymore, but his legacy lives on. Being an astronaut and a part of history remains the coolest fantasy for every kid out there.
Pause and Remember
As we reminisce fifty years since the moon landing, let us pause and remember those who have fallen asleep in the hope of one day seeing mankind rise again. For every Armstrong, there are others who sadly didn’t make it. For every successful Apollo mission, there were those who weren’t as blessed. We could regroup and learn from our mistakes so that someday, the next Armstrong would be inspired to trek new frontiers.