Sunday, April 7, 2013

Apollo 11...

If you were a sentient being on July 20, 1969, then almost certainly you spent that evening and night glued to a television set, watching and listening as Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and as Armstrong and Aldrin took that first, too-short “moon walk”.  That was me – in the basement of my Uncle Donald's house, watching a little black-and-white screen for 10 hours or so straight.

I was the only one in that household interested enough to watch; my Aunt Marion was completely disinterested, my cousin Jonathan too busy chasing willing maidens, and my Uncle Donald (who was generally interested in science) was dismissive for reasons I never understood.  But I was eagerly vacuuming up every scrap of information I could get my hands on.  That information was quite limited back then – there was no Internet, of course.  Printed publications were always days to years behind, absolutely useless for this purpose.  The only media that could provide near-realtime images and sound was television – so, like hundreds of millions of others, I sat in front of the magic box.

The voice network called “CAPCOM” was available for the public; it was running (foreground or background) during all the contemporaneous coverage.  Some other voice networks were occasionally patched in, but they were full of acronyms that nobody bothered explaining, so while they sounded cool they didn't really help elucidate what was going on.  The science and technology reporters had a really tough job – they were trying to explain some pretty complicated things in a way that “Joe Everyman” would understand.  I was frequently frustrated by their failure to talk about more interested and more complex aspects.  But...this coverage was as good as it got, back then.

Now someone has put together an awesome web site that shows how one might experience Apollo 11 if it occurred today.  I watched, enthralled, as the entire descent phase of Apollo 11 played out before my eyes.  CAPCOM was on, along with the Flight Director's net.  Transcripts for both play live.  Video from the sequence camera is on screen.  All of this is synchronized, and you can jump around any way you'd like.

For me, watching this was almost like traveling back in time.  I was back in my uncle's basement, watching on the little black-and-white screen – and fully immersed in the excitement and anticipation of the moment.  I didn't have a heart monitor going, but I'm certain my pulse and blood pressure were elevated.

Highly recommended!


  1. Not everyone was as happy as you about this event. I was in Thailand in 1969. Many of the Thai people particularly Thai Chinese hold the moon to be a sacred object. To have American trample it with their feet was disgusting.

  2. So we offended the Thai Chinese people by trampling on the moon? They offend me by having "sacred objects", so I'll declare us evenly offended :)