On July 20, 1969, my grandfather pointed at his TV’s little black and white screen and told me that I was witnessing humankind’s first step on the Moon. He did a splendid job of conveying the wonder of that moment, which I feel again half a century later as I take a picture of that same Moon shining through the clouds at 6 am when I go out to pick up the newspaper.
Given the ample coverage of this moonversary, I will just mention three things that now amaze me on the subject:
1) With no weather to disturb it, Neil Armstrong’s footprint is still there, at the landing site. Awesome. Wish I was that well-preserved.
2) Between 6% and 20% of Americans believe that the crewed landings were faked. Buzz Aldrin once punched a moon-landing denier in the face during a taped confrontation (if I had been to the moon and back, I might have hit that guy too).
Why should that conspiracy theory surprise me? Some people even insist that the earth is flat (The Flat Earth International Conference 2019 will hold their next gathering in November, in Dallas, where they “will uncover and debunk pseudo-scientific ‘facts’ while presenting the true evidence which shockingly points to our existence on a flat, stationary plane”).
3) Given the success of Apollo 11, we tend to forget that there was a good chance that the mission could go sour, and I am in awe of how that possibility must have weighed on the astronauts as they boarded the spaceship. Had the lunar module failed to launch for a return to Earth, what would have been the last thoughts of Armstrong and Aldrin as they watched the Earth and waited to die of starvation or deliberately “closed down communications” (another term for suicide).