A few weeks ago marked the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 and landing on moon. I caught a few ads for some documentaries in the days leading up to it but it wasn’t until someone Tweeted out this link that I went from “Oh that’s interesting,” to “Oh my gosh I’m obsessed with this and I must get my hands on anything to do with the moon and the space program!!!”
The creator of this amazing website, Apollo 11 in Real Time is my new favorite person. His name is Ben Feist he created this website (not sure how long it took him but it had to be quite some time) that allows you to enter into the mission at any point. From an article and interview with him:
The website replays NASA’s Apollo 11 mission as it happened, second by second. The coverage begins 20 hours from the launch, which took place on July 16, 1969, and continues until just after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins stepped aboard the USS Hornet recovery ship on July 24. It does so using all of, and only the media from the mission — photos, film footage, television broadcasts and more — all synchronized to Ground Elapsed Time, the mission’s master clock.
“If you want to see a certain photo, for example, the whole experience jumps to the moment the photo is being taken. If you’d like to research one of the lunar samples you can find it at the moment the sample container is being filled,” Feist described.
So after texting my family and telling some friends about this amazing website, thinking this is literally the coolest thing I’ve seen ever, I found this gem of a podcast on YouTube called “Apollo 11: What We Saw” hosted by Bill Whittle. It’s 4 parts at an hour each, but worth every minute. Bill takes you through the entire history of this mission but also includes all the science-y stuff that makes it all possible.
With this video series coupled with the real-time website, I came away with a new appreciation for the entire space program. I don’t know if people born long after we landed on the moon can truly grasp just how momentous this feat was until you really learn about the amount of resources, the amount of people (400,000!) and the courage it takes to fly a rocket into space, not quite knowing if this is all going to work!
And the fact that it DID and the entire world was watching. And WE, the United States, we did it first. That’s what Buzz (or perhaps Neil or Michael, can’t recall which) said in an interview – that people came up to him and said, “WE did it!” Not “You did it,” but WE meaning the country.
Sidenote: I had no idea Michael Collins didn’t land on the moon. He was in the ship that was to take them back after Buzz and Neil left the surface. He said he was okay with that, just chillin and orbiting around the moon.
From Wikipedia: Since he would be the active participant in the rendezvous with the LM, Collins compiled a book of 18 different rendezvous schemes for various scenarios including ones where the LM did not land, or it launched too early or too late. This book ran for 117 pages.
The sheer amount of intelligence and smarts to land on the moon is just incredible when you stop to think about it.
And that’s what I did that entire anniversary weekend to the point where I think I became (and still am) a bit obsessed with it. I think it’s because it contains something for everyone: History, nostalgia, adventure, rockets, fire, outer space, the unknown, exploration, team work, and most of all just plain FUN!
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon after Neil Armstrong, uttered the phrase “Magnificent desolation” to describe the lunar surface. And when you hear them both describing the feel and the look of the surface, and then you see the photos and video that they took, it’s like you are really there with them. No wonder Cronkite choked up on camera when he saw them land and was speechless.
Maybe it’s just being connected to this point in history that I wasn’t alive for and that no one except these two men got to experience that explains this obsession, this longing to see what they saw and to be there. And to see the Earth from their viewpoint too. Can you imagine? Looking at EARTH from such a distance.
I would guess that this is the most prime example of that expression:
“The pictures don’t do it justice. You just had to be there.”
In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied to look out my window on a clear night and stare up at that beautiful magnificent desolation from down here until the day comes when I’ll be able to see ALL that God created.