Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Moon Landing

I remember the event, but I don’t think it had much impact on me, then or now.  I was a camp counselor, and we had the campers watch it on a small TV, the director being aware of the significance of the event. I was more concerned with a girlfriend who was a counselor an hour up the road, planning a surprise visit on my day off. I vaguely remember having heard there was a music festival coming up in New York, but was so sure I would not be given permission to go to it that I gave it little thought.  Also, I was concerned with developing and maintaining coolness in general, making sure that my sneakers, my hair, my choice of music illustrated that I was much more with it than other 16 y/o’s, more like a college student really.

Nor have I ever gotten that excited about it.  Just a few years later another girlfriend suggested it was all a hoax, the first time I had considered such a shocking thing. Yet even then it was a matter for shrugging.  Either way, so what? I had a brief later interest when Alan Shepard from NH went to the moon and hit a golf ball, but I don’t even remember which mission that was or what year. The idea of using the moon to accomplish something, whether research or mining or manufacture, always caught my attention a bit more.

I can understand admiring the technical difficulty, the whole desire to do something just to prove it can be done (and that you are the one who can do it). Because we can.  Because it’s there. To be the first. The joy of accomplishing something difficult. I can picture myself enjoying being part of such an endeavor. Yet observing it in others?  Mild congratulations. Yngwie Malmsteen is probably the fastest lead guitarist and does what others cannot quite manage, but I don’t think he’s often very good. I don’t see the point. If you are a heavy metal guy, speed is often part of the allure. Technical precision does have value, but it’s not everything.

I might feel the same way about pure mathematics if it didn’t have a centuries-long record of turning out to be eventually useful.  I loved playing with numbers and algebra well into college and recall the joy of discovering a hidden property of a series or algebraic relationship.* But it’s only mildly interesting to me to watch someone else have that experience.  I suppose watching my children learn things is an exception to that.  But in celebrating great math, I am celebrating its potential usefulness. Mere beauty and elegance can be found in many other places.

So. Moon. Fine. I’m still not convinced it’s been a great leap for mankind, other than its derivative effects of making computers smaller and so forth. One criticism of going to the moon has not panned out, however. CS Lewis and others believed that actually landing on the moon would destroy the romance of it, and I doubt that has proved out in anything other than the most limited fashion.  We just moved our men from the moon and men from Mars further out in imagination.  I don’t know the science fiction genre well enough to know if the women from distant planets are still regarded as probably very sexy, but that was apparent even to a teenager that the fantasy was simply a way to talk more about sex. Even Heinlein did it.  Come to think of it, that was another supposedly very exciting thing that I had little interest in. Venusian girls always seemed a bit creepy to me.  Perhaps I just don’t have much interest in outer space in general, if I can’t even get interested a moon landing and potential sexy babes there.

*Here’s one: 1³ + 2³ = (1+2)², 1³ + 2³ + 3³ = (1+2+3)², 1³ + 2³ + 3³ + 4³ = (1 + 2 + 3 + 4)²… it’s just fun to notice


james said...

I was the opposite, I guess. I'd listened to all the Mercury countdowns I could, and had sent away for a Mercury rocket model kit. I poured over the National Geographic articles. Dad was a science fiction reader, and maybe I picked it up that way--we were excited. It wasn't something a 14-year-old was involved with, obviously, and so not an accomplishment for me, but there was still a lot of "we" in our enthusiasm. We'd have been disappointed if the Russians had gotten there first, but for some of us it was a friendly competition--we could get to the Moon.

The landing was at night, of course, and the shortwave was pretty crackly, and we kids were impatient for the first steps--we couldn't understand why it took so long. (Mom and Dad had to work in the morning, so they eventually went to bed.) We stayed up past 3 in the morning for the "small step." After a little while I went outside to look for the Moon, which was playing peek-a-boo with the tropical clouds. When I finally saw it I went to bed too.

Donna B. said...

I'd fall somewhere in the middle. Most of the excitement for me was because my mother used this event to justify purchasing a new TV. Even though the most interesting footage was in b&w, we got to watch it on a color TV.

Christopher B said...

I'm something like Donna, in the middle. I don't remember watching the first moon landing specifically or the Apollo 13 drama (I waw 7 when Apollo 11 flew) but I do remember watching the later Apollo flights, the Soyuz link ups, the Space Shuttle, watching SpaceLab fly by at night. I was a bit of a geek, and the technology was interesting, especially as I got more into computers.

Sam L. said...

Those Venusian girls! WowWEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I knew I could count on you, Sam. (aside) "Uh, no more drinks for the guy over by the jukebox."

Zachriel said...

The primary purpose and benefit of the Moon project was to divert the great powers, U.S. and U.S.S.R., to peaceful competition. Instead of building better nuclear missiles, much of their investment went into building spacecraft instead. Because the effort was so vast, and largely ceremonial nsidered peaceful, the technology was largely open, as opposed to military secrets. The advances included everything from computers to weather forecasting to GPS.

Texan99 said...

Another science fiction family here. I believe I disappointed my father by being a little blase about it. Of course we were going to the Moon! People in books did it all the time. At 13, I was too old to be literally confused between reality and fiction, but it lacked the emotional impact it had for my elders, especially since I had little understanding of the technical difficulty. Nevertheless, I was glued to the TV set that night.