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Tag Archive: Apollo moon mission


Feel like you’re late to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing?  In addition to online and televised events we discussed yesterday here at borg, you have several other ways to look back at Apollo 11 this week as we approach the anniversary of the Moonshot this Saturday.

Last year’s Todd Miller documentary Apollo 11 is back in theaters for a limited engagement.  Check local listings or the film website here for participating theaters.  Also in select theaters is the new documentary Armstrong, narrated by Harrison Ford.  Both Apollo 11 and Armstrong are also available now on Vudu.  Based on James R. Hansen’s book, the movie First Man, although neither an uplifting, exciting, or celebratory film about Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong, it does illustrate the personal toll, the lives lost, and the downside of life as an astronaut (probably save this one to view without the kids).  On Netflix, you’ll find a different but fascinating angle in Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo.  National Geographic’s Apollo: Missions to the Moon, Apollo’s Moonshot, and Al Reinert’s For All Mankind can be rented or purchased on Vudu.  And The Lunar Rover: Apollo’s Final Challenge is available for viewing free right now on Vudu.  Most of these can also be viewed with Amazon Prime.

You can get any book these days overnighted to you from Amazon.  Just beware there are a lot of substandard books out there and many self-published without any actual insight into Apollo 11.  Many others are highly recommended.  Just after the Moonshot Apollo 11 command pilot Michael Collins wrote an autobiographical account, Carrying the Fire, available in a new edition.  Collins also recommends Jim Donovan’s Shoot for the MoonNo Dream is Too High provides lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin’s personal life lessons from Apollo 11 and his life.  The historical account American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley has been praised by critics and historians including Doris Kearns Goodwin.  BBC science correspondent and ex-NASA astronomer David Whitehouse wrote Apollo 11: The Inside Story.  Jay Barbree has written the most definitive account of mission commander Neil Armstrong in his Neil Armstrong: A Life in Flight.  And the most recent work on Apollo 11 is this year’s well-reviewed One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman.

Get the new stamps and pre-order your own first day covers from the U.S. Post Office here (the yellow dot indicates Tranquility Base, landing site of the Eagle).  And don’t forget the U.S. Mint still is selling its 50th anniversary commemorative coins.  See our discussion of them earlier this year here at borg.  Stay away from the original memorabilia unless you’re an expert–fakes are for sale all over the Internet this year, especially items like space-flown patches and astronaut autographs.

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It seems like something big is going to happen Saturday, right?  With CBS providing stream re-broadcasting in real-time the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16, 1969–heading 234,000 miles to the Moon, until Neil Armstrong’s foot first hit the dust of the Moon’s surface four days later on July 20, 1969–a viewer glued to their computer or streaming TV could convince himself/herself that it’s all happening right now.

Most Earthlings today, and certainly Americans of the past few generations now only know of Walter Cronkite from his inclusion as himself with historical CBS footage spliced by Ron Howard into his film Apollo 13.  Cronkite, long thought one of the best broadcast journalists of all time, was a staple in homes for decades, and as anyone new to the Apollo 11 project will find, was the key hand-holder of the public as they first witnessed humanity’s greatest adventure.  Spliced between news coverage for new viewers and fans of all things retro may appreciate the vintage TV commercials all just as they originally aired.  Astronaut Wally Schirra accompanied Cronkite for the broadcast.  U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew spoke after the launch, which was also attended by then-former President Lyndon Johnson.

Check here and your local news for events nationwide this week celebrating the 50th anniversary event–every city and science center has some kind of commemoration.  Twenty-five years ago I worked at the Smithsonian Institution at the Milestones of Flight display at site of the Apollo 11 capsule for the countdown to the Moonshot, which was accompanied by speeches from Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, the Vice President Dan Quayle and other dignitaries, and I was able to see the Armstrong spacesuit as a worker behind the scenes firsthand.  Twenty-five years later the capsule, the Command Module Columbia, is still on display across from the Wright Brothers Flyer and the Spirit of St. Louis at the National Air and Space Museum.  Armstrong’s spacesuit has been restored this year and was unveiled in a new display yesterday at the museum, unveiled by Vice President Mike Pence and members of Armstrong’s family.  The suit remains one of the most important objects in the history of humans.

You can find the complete official NASA-sponsored events at the NASA website here, with many opportunities in Washington, DC, and via the Internet for those at home.  Today’s #1 astronaut, the recently retired Peggy Whitson, holder of several Earth records for her space travels, can be found as part of the television coverage of the week.  Cronkite’s account of the moon landing and moonwalk will stream again on July 20 at 3:17 p.m. and 9:56 p.m. Central.  Re-live, again, or view for the first time, the lift-off coverage by CBS here:

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Neil Armstrong passed away this weekend, just shy of his 82nd birthday, and the world marked the passing of a key figure in history, an icon for anyone who ever looked to the stars and tried to locate the craters on the moon with a telescope.

On July 16, 1989, I was living in Washington, DC, and working at the Smithsonian Institution and my friend showed me an announcement: “The first men to walk on the moon will participate in a public ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of their lunar landing at 10 a.m. Thursday outside the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.  Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon on July 20, 1969.  They stepped down from the lunar module “Eagle,” while Michael Collins orbited overhead in the command module “Columbia.”  All three men are expected at the Smithsonian ceremony in their honor, which is being co-sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).”
Our friend who worked at the National Air and Space Museum volunteered to work at the Apollo exhibit the night of the anniversary, and we got to man the exhibit with him and received a great poster commemorating the anniversary when it was all done.  It was a great experience being there as we had both not witnessed the TV airing of the original moon landing.  One of the curators let us handle an actual moon boot and I remember ooing and ahhing over it as a TV reporter interviewed my friend at the booth.
 
The morning of the 20th anniversary of the moon landing, President George Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle (the acting president of the Smithsonian) spoke and introduced Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, the first men to visit the moon.  It was the only time I saw Neil Armstrong in person.  Unlike the other moon men, Armstrong was a private man and kept out of the public spotlight.  Without his spacesuit he looked like any other guy you’d pass on the street.  Like many others I always wanted to know more about him.

When I think of Armstrong I think of his fame and status in the context of the history of mankind.  In Michael H. Hart’s book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Hart includes President John F. Kennedy on his list, along with the likes of Aristotle, Jesus Christ, Gutenberg, Galileo, Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Muhammed, Edison, Michaelangelo and Beethoven.”   Why Kennedy?  Hart writes:

“A thousand years from now, neither the Peace Corps, nor the Alliance for Progress, nor the Bay of Pigs is likely to be remembered.  Nor will it seem very important what Kennedy’s policies were concerning taxes or civil rights legislation.  John F. Kennedy has been placed on this list for one reason only:  he was the person who was primarily responsible for instituting the Apollo Space Program.  Providing that the human race has not blown itself to smithereens in the intervening time, we can be fairly sure that even 5,000 years from now, our trip to the moon will still be regarded as a truly momentous event, one of the great landmarks of human history.”

Hart goes on to clarify his position:

“I will discuss the importance of the moon program a little further on.  First, however, let me deal with the question of whether John F. Kennedy is really the man who deserves the most credit for the trip.  Should we not instead credit Neil Armstrong or Edwin Aldrin, the first men who actually set foot on the moon?  If we were ranking people on the basis of enduring fame, that might be the correct thing to do, for I rather suspect that Neil Armstrong is more likely to be remembered 5,000 years from now than John F. Kennedy.”

Armstrong’s family issued a statement: “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

On Armstrong’s passing, President Barack Obama stated:

“Neil was among the greatest of American heroes–not just of his time, but of all time.  When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation.  They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable–that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.  Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown–including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure–sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step.”

In the year 2000, Armstrong was quoted as saying,  “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer, and I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”

The barely noticeable press coverage of Mr. Armstrong’s death this weekend aside, I think the view of Armstrong’s fame enduring for thousands of years is spot on.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com