Inspiring moon landing brought world together in innocent times
OUR place in the universe has been the weighty subject most of us have been confronted with this past week, as the 50th anniversary of the moon landing was marked.
The documentaries were out of this world, showing the mission in incredible detail by interspersing interviews from astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with TV news footage of Walter Cronkrite and President Richard Nixon among other celebrities of the period.
The awe with which people viewed something most of us take for granted today, was refreshing and amazing to behold.
Since man first walked the earth, the moon has been a source of fascination. In the early 1600s serious study was given to it and Galileo, using a telescope, was able to determine that rather than being the perfect heavenly body everyone believed, it was very like earth in that it had valleys, plains, mountains and possibly even rivers. The discovery led to further study and thoughts turned to how to get man on the moon. These included using a flock of specially trained geese carrying men in some secure contraption and placing men (presumably ossified) into a bullet and firing them at the moon. But it wasn’t until the Cold War and space race that America came up with the goods and using a rocket got the three incredibly brave astronauts into space and they landed on the moon as millions gathered around televisions across the world to watch this incredible sight.
It emerged afterwards that the three came perilously close to dying on the moon as the life support backpack on one of the astronauts brushed against the plastic arming switch and broke it as they were climbing back into the Lunar Module to leave the
moon. The switch was to have activated the Lunar Module’s engine for the module’s rendezvous with the mother spacecraft.
Aldrin informed Houston’s Space Centre by radio and a decision was made to use the hollow end of a space pen to access and activate the inside switch. Aldrin then used his Space Pen to flick the switch, lifting Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to safety.
I was born eight years after the moon landing but even then popular culture was all about space. Bowie’s Space Oddity was on the radio, Star Wars and Star Trek was in the cinemas, capturing the imaginations of millions. Our endless fascination with astronauts and space continues and as technology continues to be improved, heaven knows, we could be all in space if we and our government don’t start looking after the planet better.
Minister John Halligan, who has been on record about his belief in aliens, launched Ireland’s first-ever National Space Strategy last month. If you’re like me it probably popped up on your news feed and passed off into the ether. 1, because Ireland isn’t going to compete for space in, erm, space. 2. Because it’s to do with the European Space Agency. 3. Because it was on one of those jokey news websites and I hadn’t time to waste. Needless to say Mr Halligan defended the €18.3m a year investment as great value for money, as it helps create jobs in space equipment contracts here.
One of the lessons we can learn from the efforts of NASA and Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins is that we are but dots in the grand scheme of things.
Correction – for anyone planning on doing the ring of Kerry Cycle, it’s 108.74 miles and not 90 as stated here last week, a fellow cyclist has informed me.
Buzz Aldrin on the moon.