Let’s Send Neil Back To The Moon.
Early on Sunday morning, August 25 here in Australia, I got the news I never wanted to hear. I knew one day it would come…but please, not now!
I was in the middle of a radio interview on a local station when they cut in with the news that Neil Armstrong had passed away. “What?? What are you telling me…Neil’s dead!!” I cut the interview short because I simply couldn’t go on.
Neil Armstrong wasn’t just an American hero; he belonged to the entire world. Kids wanted to be like him. Men looked up to him and every woman wanted to be Mrs. Neil Armstrong. My world had just collapsed and I didn’t know what to do.
A humble man who, as a kid, only ever wanted to fly, Neil went on to pilot the famous X-15 rocket plane, fly dozens of dangerous missions during the Korean War and later travel in space with Dave Scott on the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. He was unknowingly paving the way for his ultimate destiny to be the first man to walk on the Moon a mere 3 years later.
There will never be another event like this. If anything epitomises the twentieth century it was the first Moon landing. Our first steps on another world. Those of us who witnessed it remember where they were at the time, just as we did when Elvis died and Kennedy was assassinated. Tragedy imprints, indelibly!
For 12 hours during and throughout that moon walk period there was virtually no crime around the world. One in six human beings were watching the moon landing on TV, even the crims, and listening on radios. For a moment in time we were united – we knew, we just knew we were witnessing one of the greatest events in history unfold right before our very eyes.
You only get one shot at this. Only one person can walk on the moon for the first time. It took guts – the ‘right stuff!’ Neil gave them a 50/50 chance of getting to the Moon and getting back. Nasa’s odds were about the same. They were both 38 years old with families and a whole lifetime in front of them, but they went.
I was lucky enough to be invited to spend the morning with Buzz Aldrin at his home in California in 2008, prior to writing a story about the upcoming 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. I remember asking Buzz what concerned them the most, what was the one thing they were concerned about and feared the most.
Both he and Neil had two days cooped up in a small capsule to think about that. He paused, looked up and surprised me by saying they were very aware they were being watched. “We knew that everything we did and everything we said was being recorded for future history,” Buzz said. “It was on our minds constantly.”
OK, it’s over. Neil Armstrong’s name will live on from this day forward. He’s gone beyond the term legend. In the annals of history he’ll be seen as a giant, the Wilbur Wright of our time. Hundreds of years from now kids in a future classroom will be learning about Neil Armstrong, as we studied ancient history in our day.
But hang on, do we leave it all here? Is this where the story ends? Let’s do something about it, something quite radical but completely sensible. Let’s send Neil Armstrong back to the Moon! Not literally but posthumously. Let’s start a movement that will reverberate back to NASA, to the white house and engage a lobby group to have Neil Armstrong’s ashes interred on the Moon.
I’m proposing a monument to be built on the Sea Of Tranquillity, on the spot where Neil and Buzz walked and, if there’s no national burial planned, place his ashes there. An eternal symbol and testament to human accomplishment – as Neil put it, the place where men from planet Earth first set foot on the Moon, and came in peace for all mankind.
Let it be slated for the first Moon return mission, by any country or private consortium. A stone minimally inscribed with a simple message telling the story for future generations. The blood, sweat, tears and spirit of countless thousands who worked on the Moon missions would be indelibly imprinted on it. Even the words ‘Neil and Buzz were here’ would satisfy me.
We’ve got the ‘Monument to a Century of Flight’ located at the Aycock Brown Welcome Centre at milepost 1.5 in Kitty Hawk, NC, the Smithsonian cradles flight history and the ashes of people like Gene Rodenberry, James Doohan et al circle the earth in tributary gestures.
Neil’s remains would be in good company on the Moon sharing the eternal silence with the ashes of Eugene Shoemaker. If you just asked “who” Google the name, it’s a great story. Folks, this is not something we need to do, it’s something we should do!
The author would like to hear any feedback, especially if you’re in a position to help make this happen. Contact Dave Reneke, writer and publicist for Australasian Science magazine via his webpage www.davidreneke.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org [Written by: David Reneke]
A Superb Panorama
Danish photographer Hans Nyberg has created several interactive panoramas, including a new one featuring the Curiosity rover. But today, we’d like to focus on one he created for Apollo 11, allowing you walk along with Neil Armstrong’s steps on the Moon. “Armstrong only appears in a few images on the Moon, as he was the one who took almost all images, Nyberg writes on his website. “But his shadow is there and in the helmet reflection in the famous image of Buzz Aldrin you see him.”
It works best to view the panorama in full screen; click the thumbnail images at the top to see the various still images.
Neil Armstrong – Life and Times
Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away was 82 when he died.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions. His first words after setting foot on the surface are etched in history books and the memories of those who heard them in a live broadcast.
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said. In those first few moments on the moon, during the climax of heated space race with the then-Soviet Union, Armstrong stopped in what he called “a tender moment” and left a patch commemorate NASA astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died in action.
“It was special and memorable but it was only instantaneous because there was work to do,” Armstrong told an Australian interviewer in 2012. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.
NASA’s newly unveiled restored video footage of man’s first steps on the moon to mark the 40th anniversary of the‘s historic stride into space in 1969. Source: NASA.
With one small step off a ladder, astronaut Neil Armstrong, became the first human to set foot on the moon. “The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to,” Armstrong once said. The moonwalk marked America’s victory in the Cold War space race that began October 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, an 83kg satellite that sent shock waves around the world.
Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamour of the space program. “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
Neil A. Armstrong, fourth from left, and David R. Scott, third from left, arrive at Complex 19 for a simulated test in preparation for flight. The family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, says he died Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82. (AP Photo/File) Source: AP
A man who kept away from cameras, Armstrong went public in 2010 with his concerns about President Barack Obama’s space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon and emphasised private companies developing spaceships. He testified before Congress and in an email to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he had “substantial reservations,” and along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a “misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.”
Armstrong’s modesty and self-effacing manner never faded. When he appeared in Dayton in 2003 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight, he bounded onto a stage before 10,000 people packed into a baseball stadium. But he spoke for only a few seconds, did not mention the moon, and quickly ducked out of the spotlight.
Apollo 11 space mission US astronaut Neil Armstrong is seen smiling at the camera aboard the lunar module “Eagle” on July 21, 1969 after spending more than 2 hours on the lunar surface. Photo: AFP Source: AFP
He later joined former astronaut and Senator John Glenn to lay wreaths on the graves of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Senator Glenn introduced Armstrong and noted it was 34 years to the day that Armstrong had walked on the moon. “Thank you, John. Thirty-four years?” Armstrong quipped, as if he hadn’t given it a thought.
At another joint appearance, the two embraced and Senator Glenn commented: “To this day, he’s the one person on Earth, I’m truly, truly envious of.” Armstrong’s moonwalk capped a series of accomplishments that included piloting the X-15 rocket plane and making the first space docking during the Gemini 8 mission, which included a successful emergency splashdown.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong walks on the moon during the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969. Source: AFP
In the years afterward, Armstrong retreated to the quiet of the classroom and his southwest Ohio farm. Mr Aldrin said in his book “Men from Earth” that Armstrong was one of the quietest, most private men he had ever met. In the Australian interview, Armstrong acknowledged that “now and then I miss the excitement about being in the cockpit of an airplane and doing new things.”
At the time of the flight’s 40th anniversary, Armstrong again was low-key, telling a gathering that the space race was “the ultimate peaceful competition: USA versus USSR. It did allow both sides to take the high road with the objectives of science and learning and exploration.”
US Astronaut Neil Armstrong is awarded the Samuel P. Langely medal in front of the Apollo 11 Columbia Command Module during a ceremony on the 30th anniversary of the moon landing as US Vice President Al Gore applauds in 1999 at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. AFP PHOTO Source: AFP
Senator Glenn, who went through jungle training in Panama with Armstrong as part of the astronaut program, described him as “exceptionally brilliant” with technical matters but “rather retiring, doesn’t like to be thrust into the limelight much.” Derek Elliott, curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s US Air and Space Museum from 1982 to 1992, said the moonwalk probably marked the high point of space exploration.
The manned lunar landing was a boon to the prestige of the United States, which had been locked in a space race with the former Soviet Union, and re-established US pre-eminence in science and technology, Mr Elliott said.
“The fact that we were able to see it and be a part of it means that we are in our own way witnesses to history,” he said. The 1969 landing met an audacious deadline that President Kennedy had set in May 1961, shortly after Alan Shepard became the first American in space with a 15-minute suborbital flight. (Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A Gagarin had orbited the Earth and beaten the US into space the previous month.)
In this photo from NASA, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong’s right foot leaves a footprint in the lunar soil July 20, 1969 as he and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin become the first men to set foot on the surface of the moon. Photo: AFP Source: AFP
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” president Kennedy had said. “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important to the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” The end-of-decade goal was met with more than five months to spare. “Houston: Tranquility Base here,” Armstrong radioed after the spacecraft settled onto the moon. “The Eagle has landed.”
Astronauts Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Neil Armstrong & Michael Collins cheered by thousands as they were driven down King Street, Sydney during their triumphant visit in 1969. Picture: William Russell Source: AFP
“Roger, Tranquility,” the Houston staffer radioed back. “We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.” The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, circled the moon in the mother ship Columbia 96km overhead while Armstrong and Aldrin went to the moon’s surface. In all, 12 American astronauts walked on the moon between 1969 and the last moon mission in 1972.
For Americans, reaching the moon provided uplift and respite from the Vietnam War, from strife in the Middle East, from the startling news just a few days earlier that a young woman had drowned in a car driven off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island by Senator Edward Kennedy.
The landing occurred as organisers were gearing up for Woodstock, the legendary three-day rock festival on a farm in the Catskills of New York. Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, on a farm near Wapakoneta in western Ohio. He took his first plane ride at age 6 and developed a fascination with aviation that prompted him to build model airplanes and conduct experiments in a homemade wind tunnel.
US President Barack Obama stands alongside the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong during a meeting on the 40th anniversary of NASA’s first human landing on the moon in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, in this July 20, 2009. AFP PHOTO Source: AFP
As a boy, he worked at a pharmacy and took flying lessons. He was licensed to fly at 16, before he got his driver’s licence. Armstrong enrolled in Purdue University to study aeronautical engineering but was called to duty with the US Navy in 1949 and flew 78 combat missions in Korea.
After the war, Armstrong finished his degree from Purdue and later earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He became a test pilot with what evolved into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, flying more than 200 kinds of aircraft from gliders to jets.
Armstrong was accepted into NASA’s second astronaut class in 1962 – the first, including Glenn, was chosen in 1959 – and commanded the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. After the first space docking, he brought the capsule back in an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean when a wildly firing thruster kicked it out of orbit.
Armstrong was backup commander for the historic Apollo 8 mission at Christmastime in 1968. In that flight, Commander Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell and Bill Anders circled the moon 10 times, and paving the way for the lunar landing seven months later. Aldrin said he and Armstrong were not prone to free exchanges of sentiment. “But there was that moment on the moon, a brief moment, in which we sort of looked at each other and slapped each other on the shoulder … and said, ‘We made it. Good show,’ or something like that,” Aldrin said.
An estimated 600 million people – a fifth of the world’s population – watched and listened to the landing, the largest audience for any single event in history. Parents huddled with their children in front of the family television, mesmerised by what they were witnessing. Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties, and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into motels just to see the moonwalk.
Neil Armstrong is seated during a suiting up exercise Cape Kennedy, Fla., in preparation for the Gemini 8 flight in 1966. (AP Photo/File) Source: AP
Television-less campers in California ran to their cars to catch the word on the radio. Boy Scouts at a camp in Michigan watched on a generator-powered television supplied by a parent. Afterward, people walked out of their homes and gazed at the moon, in awe of what they had just seen. Others peeked through telescopes in hopes of spotting the astronauts.
In Wapakoneta, media and souvenir frenzy was swirling around the home of Armstrong’s parents. “You couldn’t see the house for the news media,” recalled John Zwez, former manager of the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum. “People were pulling grass out of their front yard.”
Former US astronaut Neil Armstrong smiles during a presentation of the Windows 2000 computer system in 2000. Source: AFP
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were given ticker tape parades in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and later made a 22-nation world tour. A homecoming in Wapakoneta drew 50,000 people to the city of 9000. In 1970, Armstrong was appointed deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA but left the following year to teach aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
He remained there until 1979 and during that time bought a 125ha farm near Lebanon, where he raised cattle and corn. He stayed out of public view, accepting few requests for interviews or speeches.
The Moon Landing, As You’ve Never Seen It Before
The date is July 20, 1969. With minutes of fuel to spare, the astronauts of Apollo 11 are gliding across the surface of the moon, looking for a place to land. There’s just one problem: boulders strewn across the landscape prevent a quick touchdown.
Back in Houston, mission control is issuing periodic readouts of the spacecraft’s fuel status. The seconds tick by until Apollo 11 is running on fumes. The situation is urgent. If the astronauts can’t land, they’ll be stranded on the moon until they die, with millions following the broadcast live from earth.
As the astronauts frantically search for a landing zone, the health monitoring equipment linked to the men goes haywire. The chart you see above shows Buzz Aldrin’s EKG readout in the final moments before touchdown, which is marked by the long vertical line about three-fourths of the way through the graph. It’s a rare, alternative glimpse of a critical moment in history, preserved by TEDMED curator and Priceline.com founder Jay Walker in a vast library devoted to science, medicine, and history.
As we know, the astronauts landed safely and returned home. But for a few heartstopping seconds, anything could have happened — and this chart tells the tale.
Wide Awake in the Sea of Tranquillity