This week, 45 years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module ladder and placed a tentative foot upon the surface of the moon. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” he said. Half a billion breathless earthlings 384,400 away watch engrossed in the ghostly high contrast signal transmitting to earth to enable the live action. The jet engine is barely 25 years old, yet rocket technology has evolved to sent a human payload into space and upon our nearest neighbour. So rich in mythology across all cultures and epochs, the Moon we gaze upon that night is for the first time inhabited.
I’m in Grade 3 at Leongatha East primary school. It has one building set on an acre and there are 12 children enrolled. John Wall our teacher has converted the majority of our school to the Hawthorn football club. His shyness undermined by his choice of motor vehicle – a two-tone black and burnt orange Chrsyler hemi pacer, a direct relative of the legendary Charger. A beast with an associated tone and horsepower. But not in the ball park of the Saturn V rocket array that pushed our Apollo 11 astronaut trio into space. We’ve got an old second-hand TV upon a stationary cupboard and a ceramic wood heater that’s filled with smoldering gum embers. Everyone is watching it. It’s a different time, the interest in exploration is strong, the faith in progress that this represents is manifest. My grandma who we’ll lost just 6 weeks later was gone from the first motor vehicle and bi-plane to inter-planetary travel. Has there been such an age of technological change in one generation? No doubt the world and cold wars in that time have contributed to that rapid pace for the survival imperative engenders innovation in most evil of motivations. It’s then up to the peace to transform them into tools at our disposal at the domestic level. Such was the hope of Isiah 2:4:
“And He hath judged between the nations, And hath given a decision to many peoples, And they have beat their swords to ploughshares, And their spears to pruning-hooks, Nation doth not lift up sword unto nation, Nor do they learn any more — war.”
It is a war of ideas that sends men to the moon in that time. The cold war isn’t just about pitting two systems against each other, it’s also about misplaced pride through the dominant vision of progress and conquering new frontiers of territory, science, convenience and culture:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space.”
-President John F Kennedy, Address to Congress on Urgent National Needs, May 25, 1961
Back in Leongatha East, I’m young, in awe and oblivious to all that. Deep in winter, we arrive at school that morning with the knowledge that the lunar module has successfully separated from the command module to carry Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin toward the sea of tranquility, the preferred landing point on that barren rock. Michael Collins stays above in lunar orbit. “The Eagle has landed” reports Armstrong as the soft dust greets the silence of the engines. Around lunchtime, Armstrong emerges like an apparition on the old Pye set.”Beautiful view. Magnificent desolation” Buzz manages when it’s his turn to get to the bottom of the ladder a little while after Armstrong. They hang about on the moon for 21 hours, plant the stars n stripes flag where no wind will caress it; and collect over 20 kilogram of moon rocks destined to travel the world like a bearded lady. Amidst the dying 60’s dream of peace, love and understanding the Moon expedition is to some the last hopeful buzz of a turbulent decade, to others the loudest shout of a nation in excess. A raft of space race inventions spin off into civil society.
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) July 19, 2014
The jaunt to the moon ends when the they splash down off Hawaii on July 24, 1969. Aldrin struggles with post moon walk life falling into depression and alcoholism. Armstrong heads into teaching, serves on a succession of boards and is appointed to two enquiries into space incidents – the near tragic Apollo 13 voyage and the catastrophic Space Shuttle Challenger take off explosion that claims 7 lives.
St Kilda and Carlton this round replicated the feats of the Apollo program with their emergence from a season long traverse through the dark side of the moon emerging into a victory orbit. Carlton cut through the atmosphere with their best performance of the season as Waite, Henderson and Casbolt fire as one to destroy the North Melbourne defence. The Roo’s run of inconsistent wins about the big teams and losses to those they should beat up sees their season fall back to earth in a spectacular glowing burning show of space junk as they attempt to re-enter the September atmosphere. St Kilda’s space program has been in disarray since their single moon walk in 1966. Ill fated voyages in 1971, 2009 and 2010 (2 expeditions) have sapped what little optimism remains of planting a St Kilda flag upon that most desolate of places where the echo of the club song is mathematically impossible. Heads of the space program have come and gone in quick succession in the bid to win the space race – Alves, Watson, Blight, Thomas, Lyon, Watters and the present Head of Aeronautics Richardson. A victory of pride occurred this round with their frenetic attack on the contested footy that cause a top four seeking Freo’s finals intentions explode into a desolating fireball.
If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool