[FPSPACE] Remembering 40 years ago

Geoff Richards richards.gr at googlemail.com
Wed Jul 15 07:27:13 EDT 2009


I was 24 at the time of Apollo 11, working in the UK aircraft
industry.  I'd started a subscription to Aviation Week a few months
earlier, so I had their excellent preview articles to help me follow
the mission and I was fully up to speed with the technicalities.  What
I didn't have was a TV, so I listened to most of the mission on the
radio, Voice of America having the best coverage.  For the landing, a
colleague at work invited me over for the night.  The landing, to be
honest, I might just as well have stayed home with my radio for, as
the BBC TV commentators were far more likely to talk over the comm
link traffic that the VoA were, and there were no pictures coming from
the spacecraft at that stage.  Nevertheless, it was all very tense
with the alarms and the long wait for the magic words "Contact light".
 While waiting for the EVA, I dropped off to sleep, only to be shaken
awake by my colleage with the news that they'd changed the plans and
the EVA would start early.

The EVA was unforgetable, from the initial upside-down view to the
ghostly figures learning how to run in low gravity to the fiddly
"clothes-line" system to get the rock-boxes up the ladder.  There was
a bit of grumbling when Nixon got in on the act, and some periods when
both astronauts were out of shot, but on the whole it was totally
gripping.

The BBC eventually showed a few clips from the onboard cine cameras,
but most of the imagery of the mission that I saw at the time was the
still coverage in Av Week and the photo news mags like Life and Paris
Match.  I remember that Life had a cover pic of a blow-up of Aldrin's
helmet from that famous shot of him, and you could pick out a tiny
blue dot in the sky that was the reflection of the Earth.  I don't
think I saw the full NASA film until I joined the BIS a couple of
year's later.

Geoff Richards


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