To The Moon And Beyond!?

It was appropriate that my pal Mike and I, with my wife Sandy, recently went together to a cinema in the Philadelphia suburbs to see the excellent documentary Apollo 11. I mean, a few months short of 50 years ago Mike and I took a road trip through parts of New England and Canada soon after our college graduations, a trip during which the Apollo 11 mission was very much on our minds and before our eyes.

Mike suggested the journey to me in Roslyn, the Long Island town where we grew up and still lived (Long Island is near New York City). There, in a pizzeria, we bumped into each other after being out of touch during our college days. “Sure, let’s do it,” I said, because, clueless and planless when it came to life’s bigger pictures, there was nothing on my agenda, socially or work-wise, to interfere.

And so, a couple of weeks later off we went in Mike’s bright red Ford Mustang convertible. We had a blast, happily taking in the gorgeous landscapes and seascapes that we encountered. And, as the Mustang racked up the miles, time after time we sang along to Bad Moon Rising, The Israelite, and Spinning Wheel, songs that were glued into heavy rotation on radio stations everywhere that summer.

When July 16, 1969 arrived, somewhere in the province of Quebec we watched Apollo 11 begin its journey. Five days later, at another Quebec location that’s faded from memory, we, along with just about everyone else in the world, saw Neil Armstrong and, some minutes later, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin step out of their lunar module, becoming the first homo sapiens to set foot on the lunar surface. While they did their thing, Michael Collins remained in orbit around the Moon in a command module, awaiting his mates’ return.

Yeah, it’s pretty cool that, half a century later, those two former Long Island boys live a mere 15 miles apart from one another in the Philadelphia burbs, are still tight, and in one another’s company got to think about and talk about their glorious Moon-enhanced road trip from the distant past.

Apollo 11 isn’t your typical documentary. There are no reminiscences by Aldrin and Collins, the mission’s surviving astronauts, nor commentary by other talking heads. What we have here, aside from a few newly-made graphics that demonstrate some of the expedition’s technical aspects, are video and film clips and photographs shot during the mission’s duration by earthbound NASA camera operators (NASA is the American space agency), by cameras attached to the command module and to the lunar module, and by the astronauts themselves. And there’s earlier footage, from 1962, of a speech by John F. Kennedy in which he explains why he thinks that the USA must, and will, go to the Moon.

Todd Douglas Miller, the film’s editor and director, did a hell of a job selecting and piecing together the oceanic amount of material at his disposal. Want to feel as though you’re climbing aboard a rocket, then blasting off, and then cruising along on your way to our cousin in the sky? Not to mention inching around gingerly on the Moon’s granular top layer? Right, who doesn’t? Which is why catching Apollo 11 is a good idea.

Lunar module returning from the Moon to command module.
Photo credit: NASA

I thought that one sequence alone was worth the price of admission. The footage, filmed from the command module, shows the lunar module on its way back from the Moon. The LM’s aim was to dock with the command module which, after jettisoning the LM, would transport the three space travelers the rest of the way back home. A softie, watching the Armstrong-and-Aldrin-inhabited craft draw nearer and nearer to Collins’ vehicle made me go limp with wonder. With the stark and stoic Moon as its backdrop, those hard-to-believe images are more dramatic and beautiful than any ever created for a sci-fi flick.

In all, six space missions placed men on the Moon, the last one in 1972. After a while, I think that people became kind of blasé about them though. Lunar overkill, if you will. Still, the accomplishments were undeniably remarkable. But were they necessary? I lean toward the nay side on that. We’re an inquisitive species, and our brains are big, so we always need to push the envelope, investigating and exploring our asses off. It’s what we do and always have done. Hey, it’s human nature.

And I guess that’s fine where Planet Earth is concerned. But is there really any point to traipsing around elsewhere? Hell, it’s not as if we learned the secrets of the universe by going to the Moon. And we sure as shit won’t learn them by visiting or establishing colonies on Mars, goals that are on the drawing boards for several nations and at least one private company. What’s more, people are people. Meaning, we’re highly emotional creatures with more than our share of less-than-stellar instincts. If Mars were colonized by earthlings, it wouldn’t take long before frustrations, hurt feelings and greediness morphed into feuds and armed conflicts (“Hasta la vista, motherf*cker!” I can hear one good ol’ boy saying to another, 100 years from now. “There ain’t enough room on this miserable red planet for the two of us. Which of these roomy craters do you want to be buried in?”). Can there be any doubt?

None of which is to say that I’m not an admirer of the heavens near and far. I am, and in a pretty big way. I love sitting outside on a clear night, staring up at the Moon, the stars, the planets. A little while ago, taking a break from writing this story, I grabbed a look at the night sky (it’s 10:30 PM on March 27 as I type. Publication date remains up in the air, however). It was magnificent. But, wouldn’t you know? The Moon wasn’t in sight. A tad of googling revealed that it won’t rise till almost 2 AM, by which time I’ll have been snoring away for over an hour. As usual, the universe didn’t consult with me when drawing up its schedule.

(Please don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this story. Gracias.)

96 thoughts on “To The Moon And Beyond!?

  1. Lynette d'Arty-Cross April 1, 2019 / 12:19 am

    I went through a period where I loved reading about and watching documentaries about space travel.

    Great post, Neil. It feels very pleasantly nostalgic. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Becky Ross Michael April 1, 2019 / 12:47 am

    Sounds like a great documentary! Neat that you got to see it with your friend with whom you have that connection to the past.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Becky Ross Michael April 1, 2019 / 8:08 pm

        Yes, it is! I just heard from an old friend for my birthday. We’ve been best friends since 5th grade, even though we’re often living in different states.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Glen available April 1, 2019 / 1:54 am

    Apparently Neil Armstrong saw fit to take with him on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon pieces of wood from the pioneering Wright Brothers plane (man’s first recorded flight in 1903) as well as a piece of fabric from their plane.

    His intention was to symbolize the great progress made in aviation since that time.
    The Wright Brothers, like Neil Armstrong, were from the state of Ohio.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 7:52 pm

      Hello Glen. Last year there was a Hollywood movie about Armstrong and NASA. It likely played around with facts a good bit. I’m not sure about that. In any case, I liked it quite a lot. The movie is titled First Man.

      Like

  4. andrewcferguson April 1, 2019 / 2:18 am

    I was 6 when the first Moon Landing happened, and all I can remember is being disappointed at the picture and sound quality! Which I think means I should go and see the movie. The Sixties were such an exciting time; I’m sorry to have missed them.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Paddy Tobin April 1, 2019 / 4:58 am

    A truly great achievement, that moon landing. I recall watching it on tv as a child – and as I’ve seen it once I won’t go to the repeat in the cinema; life’s too short!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Paddy Tobin April 2, 2019 / 3:36 am

        I don’t recall the last time I was in a cinema so I’ll hardly see it.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. cath April 1, 2019 / 5:04 am

    As a seasoned armchair traveller I’ve really enjoyed these journeys, and may now have to go and see the film. That’s a surprise, I generally prefer my space travel filtered through fiction. What a salesman you are, Neil!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. greenpete58 April 1, 2019 / 8:49 am

    Wonderful post, Neil. Documentaries are getting real popular, and I’ll have to see this one. I just have a few thoughts:

    1. I live in Ohio and have a few connections with Neil Armstrong. He’s from rural Wapakoneta, which is just up the rural road from where my father-in-law was born and raised. They were born the same year, and looked very much alike. My father-in-law always referred to Armstrong as “That boy from Wapa.” Also, I somewhat knew his son Rick, who is my age, and who attended Wittenberg University with me. Rick hosted a great music show on the college radio station. Not surprisingly, he played a lot of prog and space rock, ala Pink Floyd! Lastly, Neil’s final home was in Lebanon, Ohio, which is only a few miles from where I now live.

    2. Most of your readers probably won’t touch on your op-ed on lunar and Mars exploration overkill, but I will: I completely agree with you. It’s man’s nature, unfortunately, to want to “tinker.” And some might say “exploit.” Of course, we argue that it’s for knowledge, but there’s an ugly flip side. We’ve done it here on Earth, and we’re now paying a price. Not long ago, I researched the junk we’ve left behind on the Moon and Mars. It’s appalling. It’s not enough to use our own planet as a dumping ground, we’re now leaving our trash in space. Here’s a partial list of lunar trash (if anyone’s interested): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_artificial_objects_on_the_Moon

    Wish we could take the Beatles’ advice and just Let It Be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 8:00 pm

      Pete, as we all know, we’re a complicated species. And an intelligent species. Too smart for our own good, I’d say. And not smart enough to see the writing on the wall.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Laurie Graves April 1, 2019 / 8:58 am

    I’ve heard that “Apollo 11” is a good doc, and as my husband is a space geek, we will not doubt watch it when it either comes out on video or is available through streaming.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Jacqui Murray April 1, 2019 / 10:38 am

    I am awed by walking on the moon, have the signed poster on my wall (well, my son has it), but I was more taken by your everlasting friendship with a childhood friend. Of that, I am jealous. I can say any of mine lasted, which makes me sad. I’m very happy for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 8:02 pm

      Hi there, Jacqui. Mike and I have been friends since elementary school. That was a LONG time ago.

      Like

  10. vprofy April 1, 2019 / 11:49 am

    Remember watching on TV in a bar in Brewery Gultch, Bisbee AZ with other PC trainees and volunteeers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 8:03 pm

      You’d like this film. It’s still in theaters, if you’re interested in seeing it. Take care.

      Like

  11. Anonymous April 1, 2019 / 12:56 pm

    Thanks for the review !

    Liked by 1 person

  12. tylerus April 1, 2019 / 1:48 pm

    Thanks for the memories. I’ll make sure to check out the doc.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Robert Parker April 1, 2019 / 2:36 pm

    Instead of all those time-consuming tests by NASA, why don’t we just vote on who goes to Mars. Then right after blastoff, we can vote on whether to fund the return trip. I’ve got a few names ready to throw in the hat, and I’ll even slip a $20 to Space Command.
    When I was a kid, my grandfather took us to the aviation museum in Garden City, and the guy talking about the lunar lander there, was one of the Grumman engineers who’d built it! It’s not a pretty-looking spacecraft, but it worked great! Probably kind of pointless, going all that way to hit a few golf balls, but you gotta admit, an amazing feat, getting there & back.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. JT Twissel April 1, 2019 / 2:48 pm

    That’s amazing. I long ago lost touch with the people I viewed the moon landing with. I still remember them vividly.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Alyson April 1, 2019 / 7:09 pm

    I love that you are still friends with Mike.

    As I’ve written about the last 17 full moons to appear in our skies, I really should catch that documentary when it comes out over here.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. tanjabrittonwriter April 1, 2019 / 7:58 pm

    I am glad you enjoyed re-living the trip to “the stark and stoic moon,” a lyrical descriptions very apropos when it comes to capturing the marvel that is our close neighbor. Heaven (or the universe) forbid that we colonize and endanger other planets or solar systems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 9:14 pm

      Unrelated but interesting: there’s a recent article on The New Yorker website titled The Day The Dinosaurs Died. I’m typing this on an iPhone, and I don’t know how to copy links with this phone. So I can’t attach the link. The article is very long. Amazing info in it, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Debra April 1, 2019 / 8:29 pm

    We also found Apollo 11 amazing. Recently I heard a Buzz Aldrin interview on NPR in which he mentioned that he found the moon boring…just a bunch of gray rocks. However, the view of Earth was worth the trip, I think you are missing the benefits of space travel. Exploring outer space and seeing how everything in the universe is connected brings out the best in us. There are many products we take for granted today, I think Teflon was one, that were developed specifically for space travel. Also, the Apollo missions were one of the last times that humans on this planet actually felt united. The next time will probably be when the aliens attack. :-}

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 9:17 pm

      Hi Debra. Our species is a big mess in many ways. In my opinion, we don’t need to bring the mess to other orbs. But I enjoy and respect your opinions! See ya!

      Like

  18. Ann Coleman April 1, 2019 / 9:44 pm

    I need to watch that documentary! I do remember watching that first, famous walk on the moon and how so many people thought it was just a matter of time before we began “settling” there and on the other close planets. I’m just as cynical as you as to how that will go if it ever happens!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 1, 2019 / 10:22 pm

      Some of the footage had been “lost” or forgotten, I think. Somehow it became available to the film’s director. You’ll enjoy this doc a lot, I predict.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. America On Coffee April 2, 2019 / 1:30 am

    Those were some really exciting times, Neil. How nice it is to reflect on those good times with a long-time friend. I suppose the world has benefited much from space explorations, i.e. satellites, cyber, waves and rays that it is no longer a curiosity as during earlier times. As before, I hope your week is going well! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 6:58 am

      Hi there. No doubt there have been any number of technological advances as a result of space explorations. We are a clever species, though not necessarily a wise species.

      Like

  20. Nemorino April 2, 2019 / 3:55 am

    It seems to me I was staying in a youth hostel in Denmark when this moon landing took place. We all watched it on a black and white TV in the day room, with narration in Danish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 7:01 am

      Hi there. I’m glad to hear from you. I wonder how many people saw the moon walk on TV in 1969. Probably at least 500 million, I’d guess. Have an excellent week!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. sniderjerry April 2, 2019 / 7:27 am

    What is amazing is there is more computer tech in a cell phone now than what they used to get to the moon. See you on mars very soon – Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 9:13 am

      Hi Jerry. Cell phones are beyond belief. Their capabilities are totally amazing. See ya!

      Like

  22. Annika Perry April 2, 2019 / 9:20 am

    Neil, how inconsiderate of the universe not to consult your schedule!! 😀😀 I loved hearing about your road trip and how great that you and Mike are still firm buddies fifty years later. As young I was fascinated by all things space, the shuttle was the big new thing then! I had no idea of the film Apollo 11 – it looks brilliant and one I’ll have to watch! Happy Moon Watching – and still incredible that people have walked on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. alhenry April 2, 2019 / 12:09 pm

    “’Sure, let’s do it,’ I said, because, clueless and planless when it came to life’s bigger pictures, there was nothing on my agenda, socially or work-wise, to interfere.”

    What a lovely vision of life–brings back so many happy memories. As for going hither and yon in the universe, I agree the question at this time is: why? We have a mother of a glacier melting that may well bury Manhattan and much, much else in the world in a decade, so maybe we should focus our best minds and efforts on minimizing that in what little time’s left. Because you’re right. We are the problem and that problem will travel with us wherever we go, so we should just sit tight and confront it. NOW.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. cincinnatibabyhead April 2, 2019 / 12:42 pm

    I’m so out of touch with films like this that are currently floating around in “space”. Thanks Neil. I’ll be strapping in for this one. Good piece of writing fella. I was all for going to the moon just to see what kind of “Fromage” it consisted of.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. viewfromoverthehill April 2, 2019 / 7:44 pm

    Yes, I remember it well. Although, I think it was fun to believe there was a man in the moon when I was a kid. Children no longer think that. Cheers. Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 10:40 pm

      Hey there, Muriel. Here’s something I just looked up in Wikipedia. It explains why we see only one side of the Moon: “The near side of the Moon is the lunar hemisphere that is permanently turned towards Earth, whereas the opposite side is the far side. Only one side of the Moon is visible from Earth because the Moon rotates on its axis at the same rate that the Moon orbits the Earth – a situation known as synchronous rotation, or tidal locking.”

      Like

  26. Michele Anderson April 2, 2019 / 8:28 pm

    How wonderful that you’ve had a friend for life, so many of us can’t say that. And anything that involves the moon and the stars… what could be more meaningful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 10:43 pm

      Right, the night sky is wondrous. Our planet is a speck of dust compared to the size of the universe. Have a great week, Michele. See you!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Marie Rogers April 2, 2019 / 9:25 pm

    I must see this movie! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Now my thoughts: yes, the space program cost a lot of money and may have given us technological benefits, but the best thing was the inspiration it provided. I watched the moon landing on a grainy B&W TV and thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened. When people complain about how hard it is to stop pollution, combat global warming, clean up politics, etc, my reply is, “A country that can put a man on the moon can figure these things out.” And I stand by this. We need to respond to all challenges like we responded to the challenge of going to the moon. Perhaps being reminded of what we accomplished 50 years ago can renew this inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 10:50 pm

      Marie, I hear what you’re saying. Mankind has done many magnificent things over time. But there are dark sides to human nature, and they can become more and more problematic as the size of the human population increases. Because of that, I’m not as optimistic as you are.

      Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts. Much appreciated.

      Like

  28. jeanleesworld April 2, 2019 / 10:28 pm

    This sounds so cool! I know Bo would enjoy this.
    And you’re most blessed to have such a friendship stand the test of time. xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 2, 2019 / 10:55 pm

      Evening, Jean. It’s a heck of a film. The Apollo 11 expedition was so dramatic and amazing. And the film captures all of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Still the Lucky Few April 2, 2019 / 11:20 pm

    So true about the human species needing to explore, tinker and exploit. Just finished reading ‘Barkskins’, by Annie Proulx, who chronicles how mankind ignored the majesty of the North American virgin forests and started cutting them down. They didn’t rest until the whole darn continent was stripped! With the forest went all manner of birds and animals, as well as the indigenous people. This was all done in the name of progress, mind you. Thanks for this post, Neil—enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 3, 2019 / 6:59 am

      Thanks, Diane, for mentioning this book. I’d never heard of it before. I’ve read a couple of her books and liked them. Barkskins is now on my to-be-read list.

      Like

  30. Silver Screenings April 3, 2019 / 8:36 am

    I will check out this documentary as soon as I can.

    It’s amazing to think of the smarts and the guts it took to land on the moon. They were a brave bunch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 4, 2019 / 6:58 am

      Hi there. Oh, a good deal of exploration is taking place with telescopes and robotic equipment and other devices. Have an excellent day!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. draliman April 4, 2019 / 2:35 am

    On the other hand, if we colonised the Moon/Mars, at least there’s less environment to muck up…

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Fictionophile April 4, 2019 / 9:06 am

    Old friendships are to be treasured. How lucky that you live so close together.
    I love the night sky but seldom get to enjoy it at home due to the light pollution of the city. We spend out summers in a tiny place called Cape John, Nova Scotia and the night sky puts on a vibrant show there most nights.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Fictionophile April 4, 2019 / 3:36 pm

        No Neil, I’ve never seen the Northern Lights but would love to. My husband and I went on an Alaskan cruise last September. I thought for sure I’d see them in Alaska. Oh, well… I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

        Liked by 1 person

  33. Amanda On A Small Blue Planet April 4, 2019 / 11:41 am

    Can’t wait to watch Apollo 11; read about it a while ago and immediately put it on my Must See list, good to hear you enjoyed it.

    Like

  34. selizabryangmailcom April 5, 2019 / 1:27 am

    It sounds like a good one, Neil.
    I’m definitely with you when it comes to “spreading out” to other planets. How would we be able to stop our usual shenanigans? We wouldn’t!
    I, too, will settle for stargazing and musing………. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  35. smilecalm April 6, 2019 / 2:26 pm

    wonderful remembrance of the sense
    of awe & wonder inspired by that lunar achievement, neil!
    i remember watching images on tv, myself.
    despite all that is going on now,
    it’s nice remembering what’s possible 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 6, 2019 / 3:45 pm

      Hi David. Those first walks on the Moon entranced just about everyone in the world. They were spellbinding.

      Like

  36. Joe April 6, 2019 / 5:42 pm

    Hey Neil, I was only 9, but 1969 was one helluva year. Great way to celebrate the Apollo 11 moon landing and that epic road trip with Mike 50 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. chattykerry April 7, 2019 / 5:53 pm

    I must watch this film. The moon landing (faux or otherwise) was on my 9th birthday and I was allowed to watch it.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Christy B April 8, 2019 / 12:45 pm

    It certainly would be more convenient if the universe consulted with us now and then 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  39. ckennedyhola April 8, 2019 / 7:46 pm

    That sounds like a fascinating documentary! Years ago, Nate and I took Alex to the Kennedy Space Center and we participated in the “lunch with an astronaut” program–it was wonderful! One of the children from the audience asked an absolutely beautiful question: At what point does the sky stop turning blue when you’re launched into space? The astronaut there that day didn’t know, but he promised to really try to pay attention the next time he went into space.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 8, 2019 / 9:27 pm

      Hi there. That’s a smart kid! I wonder what the answer is.

      Check out this movie when you have the chance. It’s right up your alley.

      Liked by 1 person

  40. Paulie April 9, 2019 / 6:00 pm

    What a great post. I’ll definitely have to catch the movie. Imagine being blase about moon landings. Space travel was a ho hum thing right up until Challenger grabbed our attention.
    I do agree with your thoughts on future missions, either back to the moon or to Mars. To what end? I think we need to sink the money into the pressing problems of our current home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger April 9, 2019 / 7:52 pm

      Hello there, Paul. Yeah, don’t miss this documentary. And if you’re able to see it on a big screen, go for it!

      Liked by 1 person

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