Sunday, July 21, 2019

50 years ago: TV from the moon

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I remember very little of the broadcast, since I was ten at the time, and it was 9:56pm out time when Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. But I do remember watching it on our black and white television, and I know other family members were with me, but I can’t be sure who: I was transfixed by the pictures on the TV. Much of the world was, too.

I grew up in the space age, and watched the space launches from as far back as I can remember, starting with Project Mercury. I even had a toy Project Gemini Titan II rocket and capsule (the capsule, which survived longer than the rocket, was red plastic). I also had a plastic model kit to make replicas of the Apollo 11 craft, LEM which was meant to sit a bit of plastic resembling, more or less, the lunar surface, and the Command Module “orbiting” on a plastic arc.

So, I have a long history with the space programme, and have always been fascinated by it, so it made perfect sense that I’d watch the live broadcast. I can’t remember for sure, but we may have watched the entire broadcast of Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

The Tweet above is from Neil deGrasse Tyson and talks about the Apollo 11 insignia, which was designed by Michael Collins. Tyson later acknowledged that Apollo XIII’s insignia. But the lack of a flag was deliberate, as was the olive branch. If only the promise had been fulfilled.

The space programme and the moon missions were very important for science and to advance our species, however, the promise of peaceful cooperation among all nations was never going to happen then, and it’s no more likely now. That’s the great tragedy of the space programme: It didn’t usher in an era of peace.

Still, the Apollo 11 trip to the moon was a magnificent achievement, an event that suddenly advanced humanity farther than it had ever been before—both figuratively and literally. And it was something that people all over the world got to watch together. Maybe we were temporarily joined after all.

50 years ago, like much of the world, I was transfixed by the live TV pictures from the moon. I would love to feel that way again, but even more, I’d love for the world to feel that way again.

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