Forty years since we landed on the moon....

July 21, 2009

I remember being stuck to our old “Murphy” valve radio, listening with all my being, as the words from the first man on the moon came through…with an important word deleted.


Neil Armstrong

wanted to say, apparently, was,

“That’s one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.”

The “man” would have referred to one particular man, the “mankind” would have meant the entire human race.

But a technical glitch swallowed up that “a”…and without it, both “man” and “mankind” become generic terms.

Well, anyway, it was certainly an epoch-making event, and when I read that there was going to be a

simulast from many science centres with NASA

I decided to go to the St Louis Science Center.

The screen was all set up, and we were given a lot of facts about the Earth and the Moon: satellite simulcast sc center 200709 There were some very appropriate messages around the audience! it's not rocket science tee This was going to be several questions by students to the astronauts in Washington D C, about the space program to the Moon. And, like many space programs, this one too, developed they say in space, "Houston, we have a problem!" 200709 working to get the sattelite link The satellite link, both audio and video, just did not work, and the Science Center people were working like beavers to set it right....and finally, about fifteen minutes after the start of the "simulcast", the video came on. Meanwhile, we were entertained by choosing members of the audience (Derek and Andrew, in this case) to drive home various, to hold up a basketball and tennis ball..that are the sizes of the Earth and the Moon, relative to each other! andrew and derek basketball earth and tennis ball moon Though most science teachers, said the moderator, hold the models of the Moon and Earth about a foot and a half from each other, the Moon is actually at a distance equivalent of 33 times the Earth's circumference! So the moderator measured out the string, and the two boys found themselves much further from each other than they thought they would be. The speed at which the space-walking astronauts are moving above the earth, too, is's five miles per second! Finally, the telecast got under way, and after several questions from people in other cities, it was time for Abby of St Louis to ask her question.... Abby  who asked the question from St L Science Center Abby had apparently put in a lot of thought into her question, "What is the impact of the Moon flight, both physical and emotional, upon an astronaut?" Two Apollo astronauts were in the studio in Washington....Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Charles M Duke, Jr... both of whom were the Lunar Module pilots...Aldrin being the second man to set foot on the Moon with Apollo 11, and Duke was with the Apollo 16 mission. The answer to Abby's question was that physically, the Moon flight was very taxing, and emotionally, it was both exciting and draining...after the high of having reached the Moon, the astronauts had to gaurd against a sense of "what else now?". Here' Buzz Aldrin on TV... buzz aldrin in washington dc

Aldrin has recently written

“Magnificient Desolation”, a book about the epic journey

(That’s a review of the book, not terribly flattering, I’m afraid!) Buzz Aldrin seems to have been a victim of depression and alchoholism, and divorced twice….well, that doesn’t take away from the feat!

But what saddened me was two things. One, why is Buzz Aldrin the only one of the Apollo 11 astronauts in the limelight? Why do we never hear from Armstrong or Michael Collins?

And why are the hundreds of scientists and technicians, who worked tirelessly and around the clock to put men on the Moon, never remembered?

In all, the “simulcast” was a bit of a letdown, but when the compere in Washington said, “The next question comes from the St Louis Science Center”, I cheered as hard as anyone else in the audience!