From the Earth to the Moon

July 20, 2009

moon walk 1

If you’ve opened a newspaper or (as I prefer) visited the New York  Times online today you’ll know that July 20th, 2009 is the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon.  Its pretty hard to picture for someone my age.  The concept is both familar and strange.  I mean, astronaut was one of the dream professions I had as a kid (along with eye surgeon, history professor and secret agent); I’ve seen all the movies and visited the Air and Space Museum that the smithsonian and even wished to be sent to space camp for a while during junior high.  At the same time, however, despite the flights of fancy in my favorite science fiction, space travel has been pretty much dropped out of the popular agenda in my lifetime.  Every few years there will be images from the hubble or talk of martian data collection but we don’t seem to prioritize manned space flight anymore.   Its a shame I think, because getting ourselves off of this planet and looking back at it from a new perspective has a lot to do with our understanding of the value of the earth and how we need to take care of it (to the limited extent that we do understand that).I was home for the weekend and my family decided to celebrate the event by watching The Dish and Apollo 13, a perfect pair of movies that deal with our moon quest in different ways.

moon walk 4The Dish is a sweet and delightful little story about the Australian team that operated the largest southern hemisphere radio sattelite dish at the time to recieve the television images that were being sent by the Apollo 11 mission back to earth.  There is drama and struggle and many things go wrong but in the end they do manage to get the signal through and share Niel Armstrong’s adventure with the world.  As Sam Neil says at one point during the film, “this is science’s chance to be daring.”  Its beautiful and funny and I cry at the end every time I see it.

moon walk 5Apollo 13 is better known – the dramatization of what happened when we didn’t get to the moon.  Its a thrilling tale but despite the fabulous performances I think what I like best about it is the sense of wonder I always take away from what they accomplished using vacuum tubes and tinfoil.  The technology used in the movie is so primitive it is hard to conceptualize and this time through I started comparing the “computers” they were using to navigate their way to the moon’s orbit and back to my iPod.  I realized that if we hadn’t lost interest in manned space exploration – if we had continued as NASA assumed we would after Apollo 11 – we might be living life like the Jetsons already.

Check out this link to see the New York Times extensive section on the moonwalk anniversary.

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One Response to “From the Earth to the Moon”

  1. Malea Says:

    The blog looks great! Can’t wait to see how your ‘fiddling’ turns out!


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