The Moon 1969

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You’ll know what this is about! Its fifty years since humans first set foot on the moon. But first we start with a totally different perspective upon the matter – and this is the alleged fakery surrounding the moon landings!

And so it begins…. on the 20th July 1969 fifty years to this day, in some dark studio the cameras were set up and then this pair of legs appeared out of the gloom and cautiously descended to great jubilation around the world and even more cheers went up when the owner of those legs said, ‘that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’

Everyone in the studio cheered and clapped their hands and hugged each other and said, we’ve pulled it off! The world fell for the biggest hoax humanity has ever known. And it transpired that one day people would be able to pull off tricks like this in broad daylight! Photoshopping people’s lives in fact… Then someone within the studio butted in and said ‘Ey up where’s that script someone has got, you know, that one for a guy named Truman Burbank?’

Truman Burbank? Hey wait! You mean Jim Carrey in that film where he eventually found his life was one big fake, one big studio in fact. Sail across the faked ocean, hit a wall painted to look like clouds, find a flight of steps up this and at the top of it a door to reality… Ha ha! That didn’t come for another thirty years – by which time many were indeed strongly convinced the moon landings had been faked. No matter what, some would be destined to regard the moon landings just as fake as some would too regard the Earth as flat (and that we are somehow descended from spiders…)

Some people just can’t be convinced of the truth can they?

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Sod your fake world Christof! I’ve found the door to a real one! Truman Show. Source: Oxonian Review

As for the reality of the moon landings, the truth is maybe we didn’t go back to the moon because the real experience was just too humbling? As it stands space travel isn’t some luxury where a Starfleet commander has a huge bridge of staff and engineers and everyone is able to walk about freely, enjoy life, games and fun.

Its actually boring being cooped up in a spaceship no bigger than a car and then landing on another planet which didn’t really offer a lot if one was truly realistic about it. But the desire to get there was one that counted. There was a space race and this being the time of the Cold War, it was either the Russians or the US.

Everyone knew the moon wasn’t going to be any biggie. It’s just a barren, dusty surface where nothing happens, there’s no television for a start, gravity isnt normal and it was only a few moon rocks that made themselves for transportation back to Earth as proof of the landings themselves.

There was time enough for a pose by the American flag, which wasn’t a flag by the way because it didn’t fly like all flags should. A few hours for conducting some experiments, time enough to eat and sleep and take surveys of the immediate surroundings at the Sea of Tranquillity, and then go back home. The total amount of time spent on the moon was just 21 and half hours.

As everyone will no doubt agree, one of the biggest defining moments, even for the astronauts themselves, was seeing Earth from the moon and how beautiful it looked. That home, that blue planet which rose so gloriously above the astronauts as they spent those few short hours on the moon. This blue planet was their real home – where all the excitement happens and everybody else lives, their friends, families, loved ones and the rest of it.

Home, sweet home! The Earth rising over the moon as seen from Apollo 11.

So what’s this desire about wanting to explore space? Merely even going to the moon? That desire to be a Star Trek commander and issuing the order, ‘engage, warp factor five.’ Well to be honest it all began in a studio somewhere! Even Space 1999 or Gerry Anderson’s UFO. Those fake moon bases! Yes really the FAKED moon cities! The faked on any other planet landing even. Altair Four for example. Think about it before anyone actually ever set foot on the Moon, all the moon landings to that date had been faked.

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This, my dear Bedford, is the stuff that’s going to get us to the moon! Its Cavorite! Source: IMDb

There’s a huge number of films made before 1969 (and even quite a few made after) that pretend to show the moon, colonies on the moon, monsters on the moon (those Selenites for example), and some oddball Victorians who discover Cavorite and end up being the First Men in the Moon. Even the Grand Duchy of Fenwick got in on the act by building their own rocket to the Moon, propelled by wine of course, as a sort of two fingers at the giant US of A who had thought no-one could beat them! Let’s not forget the leading science fiction writers such as Jules Verne and H. G Wells who too did so much to inspire the human consciousness when it came to landing on the moon.

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Splat! We gotcha right in the eye! The historic film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902.) Source: Film at Lincoln Center

You see, fake or not, the moon has always been in the human consciousness. That’s why so many films have been made. Humans have wanted to know what it really is like out there and so far the only way had been to do it in a studio. Yet the moon continued to rise and shine, looking down on us, its tides clearly influencing life on Earth, and its face looking at us smugly and saying ‘you suckers on Earth ain’t seen nothing!’

And us replying back ‘Oi! You calling us suckers? Right, one day we’re going to show you who the real sucker is!’

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Oi! Who’s that down there calling me a sucker says the moon! Source: NASA

Anyone thinking of sending people to the moon was in fact no sucker of any sort, but a realist. Someone with a dream, a real idea that only happened at that stage to be a dream, but with every hope that this dream would become real.

And this one was for real. The guy who originated the whole notion was a realist. Without him there would have been no Apollo Project. It all began with a speech by President Kennedy making a promise to Congress on 25th May 1961 that the US would have man on the moon before the decade was out. And he was right. They put, not one man on the moon, but in the event a total of twelve went up there! (not forgetting the other six who acted as overseers by encircling the moon in their Apollo spacecraft.)

The scary thing is some thought this great American leader too big for his boots – and so a conspiracy was evolved, the eventual result being a bullet through the President’s brain as he rode a motorcade in Dallas. But Kennedy’s promise lived on. They had got rid of him but they couldn’t get rid of the dream. Just as the shooting of MLK in 1968 too shows, getting rid of important leaders and inspirational shining lights in people’s lives simply doesn’t get rid of a dream.

Thus it follows that getting rid of US presidents didn’t end the idea the moon could realistically be reached in the short space of just a few years… In fact the assassination propelled the Apollo programme forward with an even greater urgency. Not only that, the spaceport where the Apollo craft would take off was renamed Cape Kennedy in the former president’s honour.

Soon NASA was pulling out all the stops. In fact it wasn’t just the Americans. Yes they pulled it off. But they needed the help of so many others too. It was in fact a multi-nation project and the help of many other countries’ was enlisted to make the project a reality.

There are many thousands names whose recognition will never be fully acknowledged, who made the Apollo project possible, people who actually existed, with hearts and minds fully committed to this enormous project. These people lived, not in America, but in other countries and even in places such as Accrington, Chelmsford, Cambridge, Farnborough, Dundee and other UK towns and cities.

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The Marconi tracking station for the Apollo programme, 1966.

One of the big projects delivered by Britain for the Apollo project was Marconi’s tracking station. This was built in 1966 and taken to Ascension Island to form part of a network of dishes helping to track the Apollo spacecraft. The parabolic dish was built by English Electric in Accrington, with the other parts being built by Marconi at its main Chelmsford factory. Final assembly and testing took place at the company’s other factory in Great Baddow.

Britain did many other things to help the project become reality. Jodrell Bank in Cheshire and Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall were in on the project and many British scientists and engineers had a role. Even the Welsh helped. Their Tecwyn Roberts was the one responsible for this series of tracking stations (as the above illustration shows) around the world that would be able to keep a constant eye on the astronaut’s progress.

Other British contributions include: Pratt & Witney in Cambridgeshire for the fuel cells that would power the Apollo craft and the Lunar Modules. Parts of the spacesuits were designed by the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough. Goonhilly Downs was responsible for transmitting the live broadcasts throughout Europe.

Scotland too was in on the project. A factory in Dundee manufactured the specialist flat ribbon cables that would be needed on the moon itself. The company was Gore, famous for its Goretex. Its ribbon cables are excellent and able to stand the extreme environments in space.

How many around the world actually worked on the Apollo Project? NASA says around 400,000 people technicians, engineers, scientists. This is a huge number for any single project! I would think the number is infinitely greater because companies, factories, manufacturers were involved too. The employees, the admin staff, those undertaking the R&D for the engineers and so on. A number whose true significance shall never be known.

One of the first real big tests of the entire project ended in disaster. This was Apollo 204 in January 1967. Even though R&D did continue the fall out from that fire was huge, ensuring the suspension of the manned part of the entire space project for months. Many aspect of the spacecraft were examined in detail and countless improvements and safety measures were made.

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The remains of Apollo 204’s deck. In memory of the three who lost their lives it was renamed Apollo 1. Source: Wikipedia

Because of the disaster it did somehow look as if there would not be anyone on the moon before the sixties were out as Kennedy himself had promised. NASA persevered despite a lot of criticism and reports basically finding it at fault for the said disaster, that ‘potential oxygen incendiary bomb’ in which the innards of the Apollo command module exploded into a fireball.

By the end of 1968 the moon programme was at least on the move once again.

A strong sense of reality ensued. To put humans on the moon there had to be a high degree of effort and expectation, enormous accuracy and above all confidence, as well as a huge amount of imagination, inspiration and creativity. Money too had to be almost practically no object, and that in many ways is too how it all ended after just six manned Apollo missions. It was just far too expensive – and money doesn’t grow on the moon either!

Nevertheless in those heady days of late 1968 and most of 1969, things really got moving. The newly improved and safer combination of Saturn Five rocket and Apollo spacecraft made great strides as they went through the various stages. These progressed from take offs to full circuits of Earth, manoeuvring the Apollo and its Lunar Module in Earth orbit, then the first ever tentative step into the unknown, the first manned trip to the moon with Apollo eight.

Of course it was all practice for the big one. They couldn’t just build a rocket and say ‘right off you go boys, we’ll see you when you get back.’ They had to know that each stage of the journey would work as planned. There were computers in use for these early space projects yet these were very basic and only held at the most a mere few kilobytes of memory. What’s worse is everyone at Mission Control in Houston, in fact the whole world, was biting their nails – this was the great unknown – and would it work?

Apollo 11 July 1969:

On the 20th July 1969, they really did land on the moon. It was that the whole world watched and celebrated this momentous occasion too. Everyone felt part of it even though it was just one country that had put its people on our nearest planet. And the best thing about it all was it really happened!

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The Apollo 11 crew on 19 June 1969 – just over four weeks before they set off for the moon. L-R Collins, Armstrong, Aldrin. Source: NASA

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Collins, Aldrin, Armstrong (furthest) en route to the launching pad. 16th July 1969. Source: Twitter

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Take off! Apollo 11 leaves Cape Kennedy (otherwise known as Cape Canaveral) 16th July 1969. Source: Twitter

I remember as a small kid I fervently watched all the news about the Apollo project, I had been a fan of it for a good amount of time. I went to bed quite later than usual, having watched all the news coverage on Apollo 11 and knew the three men had arrived safely at the moon itself and were now in the celestial object’s orbit. I slept quite soundly and woke up about 3.40am in the morning and I thought to myself, it must be almost time for the part of the project where Armstrong emerges from the Lunar Module and steps onto the moon. Thus I got up and went downstairs, put the TV on and sure enough the scenes were live, cameras at the ready, just waiting for Neil Armstrong to come out of the Lunar Module and set foot on the moon. And this was actually live from the moon itself! The first step onto the moon occurred at 03.56am British time.

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A young person reading the headlines on the moon landing. Source: Twitter

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San Francisco Chronicle. Source: Twitter

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Britain’s Daily Telegraph. Source: Twitter

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Scotland’s Daily Record has a full page dedicated to the moon landing. Source: Twitter

One thing I have not seen since 1969 is how those first steps were actually transmitted live. It was a very confusing picture it seemed we were looking up at something but it wasn’t certain what this was.

What everyone these days sees is the images from the camera, located on one of the Lunar Module’s other legs and clearly showing Armstrong descending the ladder itself. The picture quality may be poor but other than that everything seems okay.

Actually those first few moments of transmission were broadcast with a very poor quality image – and were upside down! No wonder it was difficult to make sense of those first few minutes from the moon! The BBC’s engineers struggled to improve the quality of the signals being received. It wasn’t the BBC’s doing but the actual images being received from the moon. The transmissions were boosted, the pictures turned the right way up and the quality thus improved.

Sadly Wikipedia tells us most of the British live coverage of the Apollo 11 mission has now been lost.

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As well as the first step on to the moon, this was also the first feet of a manned space vehicle to make it to the moon! These are the legs of the Lunar Module ‘Eagle.’ This was the first photograph Armstrong shot with his Hasselblad camera after stepping onto the moon. Source: Twitter

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The flag that didn’t fly. Actually it did, but quite slowly due to the low gravity. Source: Twitter

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A great picture of the Lunar Module on the moon. The astronaut is Aldrin who is preparing some lunar based experiments. Source: Twitter

With pictures like the above conspiracy theorists were having a field day. They claimed shadows in scenes such as this proved the moon landings were faked but as anyone can tell you, even on Earth shadows can look as if they are going in different directions depending on perspective so that’s nothing new.

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Its sobering to think these footprints were actually the first ever on the moon. The scene shows the setting up of a solar wind experiment. Source: Twitter

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The first mission to the moon entailed some light experiments such as this one involving seismic tests. Later missions involved more complex ones and even the use of a Lunar rover! Source: Twitter

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Aldrin exiting the Lunar Module. Source: Twitter

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The Earth high above the Lunar Module. Source: Twitter

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The plaque on the lower stage of the Lunar Module, which is still on the moon. Source: Twitter

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Coming up to the Command Module, ‘Columbia, with the earth in the background. Source: Twitter

Apollo 11 was the most unique of all the missions to the moon. It wasnt just the fact it was the first to have landed on the moon but also the fact it was the only part of the entire project to use a free return trajectory, in other words it simply used the planets’ gravatational pull to enable it to travel through space between its two celestial bodies. All the other subsequent moon landings relied upon a change in their course in order to attain their objectives which took them completely out of the free return trajectory.

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Naval frogmen at the Apollo craft just after it had returned to Earth. Source: NBC15

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Engineers at Mission Control celebrating after Apollo 11 had successfully concluded its trip to the moon and back – almost without a hitch. Source: NASA

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The US president of the time saying hi to the astronauts who were in quarantine after their historic mission. Source: Twitter

Postscript – the day’s newspapers on the 50th anniversary:

The newspapers fifty years later….

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An interesting one! The Daily telegraph in its 20th July 2019 edition depicts an image showing Armstrong’s face clearly for the first time ever on the Apollo 11 mission. Source: Twitter

The picture was first discovered in 2009 however this is the best quality rendering yet so far.

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Here’s a better picture! Source: Daily Telegraph

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The Times has a special supplement to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Source: Twitter

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The Independent has a fair and substantial front page featuring the Apollo 50th anniversary. It also asks the question, are we ready for the next stage in the attempt to explore space? Source: Twitter

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The Scotsman does an excellent front page with see through banner. Source: Twitter

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The Inverness, Highlands & Islands Press Journal has this nice headline with an astronaut for its 50th anniversary celebration of the moon landing. Source: Twitter

The US newspapers were rather more elaborate in their coverage of the 50th Apollo anniversary as these early editions from across the pond show…

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The Walton Tribune. A nice touch with the US flag prominent. This is a paper based in Monroe, Georgia. Source: Twitter

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From Western Nevada County, California, is the Union paper. Source: Twitter

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