I remember when in 1969 – at the age of 7 – I was watching a small black and white screen at friends’ cottage. A small grainy picture. I had been playing most of the day and we all gathered for the eventful moment when man – in the person of Neil Armstrong – stepped off the bottom rung and planted his boot on the surface of the moon. I didn’t speak English at the time, so a quote would not be appropriate here, but I was very much aware of the weird huge white space suits, the oversize motorcycle helmets and the super awkward gloves that looked like they were completely useless at picking up anything.
Over the years, I have had a lot of NASA photographs pass through my hands. I have kept a few, but mostly, I exchanged them for other things, because, I am not a great believer in the longevity of old colour photographs. But I digress…. I did keep two. One that I think proves beyond a reasonable doubt that actually, the moon landing never happened. It was all on a set in the Arizona desert. And to prove my point, when you go to the NASA library and look up this particular image number, it doesn’t exist!
I am only kidding, of course, but the man in the background does prove good fodder for what the conspiracy theorists all say. The wide 70s tie blowing in the wind and his high-waist brown pants and loafers. The hair. You have to love the hair. It reminds me a little of my dad’s hair at the time, along with the sexy mustache and the shades. He wasn’t really supposed to be in the frame.
Of course man landed on the moon, but this particular photograph is all about the simulation, in the heat of the Arizona desert. Can you imagine just how horrible it must have been? Unbelievably uncomfortable. I would imagine great relief among the chosen few, when finally they got on with it and landed on the moon, putting the strange suits to good use.
The second image I kept is usually referred to as the ‘Jumping Salute’. I will leave it to the official description from NASA:
“Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity. Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., lunar module pilot, took this picture……”
Between these two photographs, I think I have found the two most humorous from all the NASA Apollo missions. Both are great fun, and both should be part of the celebration of what we can achieve as humans, while maintaining a smile on our faces. Don’t forget, it was all accomplished with the computing power of the average pocket calculator (for those that remember what they look like).
It has been 50 years since the last time. Perhaps, it is time to renew the vision of man on the moon. Perhaps, looking back at the only planet we have, we can make sure we start to take climate change seriously!?