I was born on July 22, 1969, while the Apollo 11 astronauts were preparing for their return trip from the moon; the journey to the moon has always been of personal interest to me. With the 40th anniversary of both occasions (of varying auspiciousness) looming, there has been a lot of interesting material published on the web.
Interestingly, the UK’s Manchester Guardian has had some of the best coverage. Of particular note is an illustrated guide to the landing, with time lines and diagrams that show how this incredible act of hubris and bravado came off. Blake Morrison’s essay on the cultural impact of the Apollo project is also required reading; from David Bowie to W. H. Auden to Norman Mailer, he highlights the somewhat mixed reactions of artists to the conquest of the moon:
Among those of a romantic disposition, there had been a fear that the magical connotations of the moon would be destroyed once we set foot on it – one small step for man, one giant leap backwards for poets, lovers and vampires. But romance persisted nevertheless: instead of traditional lunar iconography (madness, mystery and melancholy) being replaced by the iconography of the landings (space ships, silver helmets, an American flag planted in the Sea of Tranquility), the two were able to co-exist.
The Guardian’s Apollo 11 site is rich with media, essays, speculation, and archival materials, a must-visit for all moon buffs.
Scientific American magazine, too, has a lot of great materials. The Exploration of the Moon, an essay from October 1969, assesses the scientific goals of the mission, and considers the questions that are still left to be asked and answered. Apollo and the Moon: The Astronauts’ View offers photographs taken by the landing party. Also on the site is The Moon Landing Through Soviet Eyes, an interview with Kruschev’s son that puts the Apollo mission in the context of the Cold War space race.
NASA is streaming the audio of the mission, in real time, from liftoff on July 16 to splashdown on July 24. They provide other interactive media displays about the moon shot, including an animated comic about the mission and restored video of Neil Armstrong’s landing.
That the anniversary of the moon landing comes in the midst of an economic crisis is disheartening, though. A celebration in Pittsburgh cancelled its fireworks, and a weariness overlays what should be a festive occasion. The Apollo mission’s boldness, though, should really be an example of how a gargantuan project like the moon shot can have far-reaching economic effects: advances in computer technology, rocketry, communications, and, of course, Tang, were all side effects of the mission that have continued to enrich us. Perhaps a similarly bold project that pushes our frontiers–into new areas of energy production, perhaps, or even more ambitious space exploration–could spin off equally amazing benefits. Big dreams are what we need most on this 40th anniversary of the moon landing.