40 Years On

LIGHTS!! I can’t stand them anymore! Why? Well, I went for eye-testing today (I wear specs), and if you have ever faced such a similarly hopeless situation, you might know that the monsters… ahem…doctors at the eye hospital put an acid some sort of liquid to dilate your pupils, so they could look inside for defects in your eye.  Larger pupils = much more light entering your eyes, and suddenly the whole world around me is bright – as if some curious monkey had grabbed the remote control of the universe and increased the brightness to 100%  (Yeah, I make an imaginative theoretical physicist, don’t I?) I mean, I couldn’t even stand the sight of something remotely white,  like a blank sheet of paper; forget staring at bright lights. I tried closing my eyes and opening them, only to find it worse than it already was.  Right now, I can’t even bear to look at the white background of this word processor, and had to reduce the brightness in the monitor!!

Anyway, this post is about something important as today is a special day. Obviously it is probably important for like 90% of the world’s young-adult population because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is releasing today, but that ain’t what I am talking about. On July 16, 1969 throngs of people assembled on highways and beaches of Cape Canaveral, and even more people saw the momentous event on live television.  This event, you see, is equally as important as the Moon Landings, for the simple reason that the event in question IS the Moon Landings.

When somebody tells you the word “Saturn”, it conjures up many kinds of images: The ringed planet. If you’re well read, the Cassini spacecraft that went to explore it. If you’re not so well-read, the notion that Saturn somehow causes bad luck. But it is easy to forget the enormous Saturn V rocket, which will take the three Apollo 11 astronauts to orbit and beyond. Not the crowd I mentioned though. They probably will remember it for the rest of their lives, and tell their grandchildren about it.  The astronomer Kepler once remarked that the there would would one day be ships to the moon, filled with explorers who would not fear the vastness of space. Centuries after his death, Kepler’s dream seemed to be coming true.

As the countdown commenced, excitement rose. At 13:32 UTC, the Rocket came to life. In a wave of roaring energy, it rose slowly and 12 minutes later they were on orbit. Four days later, on July 20th, the lunar module Eagle separated and descended into Mare Tranquilitatus. The rest, as they say, is history. Neil Armstrong said the famous words “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” A flustered Mission control responded: “Roger, Twank…Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue here. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!” It was not long after when Neil spoke his next famous words after he set foot on the intensely white (Aaarrgghh….I can’t even stand the thought of that! I hate white now!) lunar landscape. These words I hope I need not mention.

It is hard not to compare these two pictures , the first one showing the footprint of the early caveman, probably just after inventing fire preserved acrooss the centuries; and the next of a modern man, to show how far we’ve come. Or rather, how far we have gone.

Today, it is 40 years since the event, and NASA and the rest of the world are celebrating it. Things have changed, technology has improved and trends had appeared and disappeared many times since then. But very few have walked on the Moon since Apollo 11. The last of the manned missions to earth’s only natural satellite ended on 1972. Why were there none after that?

No one quite believed that men would possibly reach for the moon when John F. Kennedy made the promise of doing that. However, when it did happen, the disbelief turned to hope. People hoped that by the turn of the millennium, men would have established a colony on the moon, explored Mars and be on their way to Jupiter. The turn of the millennium had come and gone, but none of the predictions had come true.

Thus it is with a bit of something like shame we contemplate the event of 1969. NASA plans on going back to the moon with a new program within dozen years or more, but we know more about the moon than we do about the depths of our own oceans.

Sooner or later, it’s time to look beyond…So its only all the best wishes for all the world’s space administrations. And I would also like to wish the people who claim the whole Apollo 11 program was a hoax to eat centipedes, die of asphyxiation, stare at the sun after getting their pupils dilated – preferably with a telescope (an appealing notion eh?), drown in a pond of Hippopotamus excrement and to generally go to hell. 😀

I’m signing off now, my eyes are still watering from the brightness. I just turned off the tubelight. Ahhh, the beauty of darkness….

Edit: Should have suspected it form the start. The Boston Globe’s big picture section has come up with more wow-inducing, jaw droppin, spine tingling and generally awesome pictures of the Apollo mission. If you don’t see it, I wish you share the fate of the Moon hoaxers.

Advertisements