In­spir­ing moon land­ing brought world to­gether in innocent times

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - david looby [email protected]­ple­

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.

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