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Why does Rice play Texas?
July 21, 2006 12:15 AM   Subscribe

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. [Audio] On 21 July 1969, four days after taking off from Cape Canaveral, and six and a half hours after landing Apollo 11 on the Sea of Tranquility, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step foot on the moon.

Without a doubt, the moon landing is one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind. For those who were alive thirty-seven years ago, the sight of Armstrong’s “small step” is one of the most iconic images of their lifetime.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
As far as I am concerned it was the 20th of July - why do we have to be so Amerocentric here.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:20 AM on July 21, 2006


sorry that should be 22nd.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:20 AM on July 21, 2006


I see why now.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:20 AM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


BTW, there's debate on if Armstrong said "one small step for man" or "one small step for a man." He has said it was "a man" but was distorted by static. He also admits that he could simply have flubbed it in the heat of the moment. Either way, I went with that as the quote. [1] [2] [3]
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:26 AM on July 21, 2006


I love how we 'came in peace' with a 'goodwill message' to the moon. Were we expecting company? Either way, it's shows we weren't expecting to strike oil.
posted by Davenhill at 12:34 AM on July 21, 2006


Too bad it was all faked, filmed somewhere in the Arizona desert.

(I'm kidding, but a quite intelligent friend of mine fully believes in the hoax theory. Don't worry, I sorted him out).
posted by zardoz at 12:47 AM on July 21, 2006


NotMyselfRightNow, Ah, What an amazing memory. Thanks. Huddled around a TV set with former neighbors up in City Island on that hot night, a month before Woodstock. From Earth the Moon was 3/4 full that night. Awesome.
posted by nickyskye at 1:03 AM on July 21, 2006


"I abso-fucking-lutely am standing on the surface of the fucking moon." [mp3]
posted by Len at 1:27 AM on July 21, 2006


"Roger that, Tranquility."

*static*

cool post.
posted by carsonb at 1:47 AM on July 21, 2006


I love how we 'came in peace' with a 'goodwill message' to the moon. Were we expecting company?

No, he meant that he hopes you aren't sitting home thinking he's a US fighter pilot standing there planting a spring-loaded American flag on the moon with another US fighter pilot just because the American military-industrial complex wanted to sink lots of money into a missile research and development program headed by a Nazi missile designer so that America could fuck with Russia while expanding America's military range and capabilities. But he figured only moon people would believe that, so he pitched the message to them.
posted by pracowity at 2:22 AM on July 21, 2006 [4 favorites]


Len, alternatively: Mike Collins, the astronaut circling the moon in the second half of their ship, suggested the following to Armstrong: "If you had any balls, you'd say 'Oh, my God, what is that thing?' then scream and cut your mic."

Now THAT would have been an iconic image for all mankind!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:06 AM on July 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


Actually, that's another aspect that's quite interesting to think about: The risk they took. They had no idea what would happen when they stepped onto the moon. I've read about parents who refused to let their children watch because of what might happen. A decade and a half later, this took place:

Carter [an astronaut who was investigating the Challenger loss] next informed everybody that the flight surgeon's office was going to archive a clip of our hair and a footprint to facilitate our identification in the event of a future shuttle loss. That comment suggested how difficult identification of the Challenger crew remains had been. Even dental records hadn't been enough. [Astronaut] John Young sagely observed, "When extranordinary methods are being taken to make sure you can be identified after you're dead, everybody ought to think twice about the job they're in." He was right.

(Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane, page 247)

Nixon even recognized this, and had a speech prepared in the event something happened to Apollo 11 and they couldn't save them:

Nixon Had Speech if Moon Trip Failed

.c The Associated Press

By CALVIN WOODWARD

WASHINGTON (AP) - When man first landed on the moon 30 years ago, President Nixon had a speech all ready in case man could not get off again.

A contingency statement was prepared for Nixon, an eerie, poignant tribute that he would deliver while the astronauts were still alive but when there was no longer any hope for them.

"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace,' says the statement, incorporated in a memo entitled "In Event of Moon Disaster.'

The memo is dated July 18, 1969, two days before the moon landing.

Nixon never had to act on it. Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin made it safely off the moon, back into the command module with Michael Collins, and home. The words were drafted by William Safire, then a Nixon speechwriter and now a columnist for The New York Times.

The memo ended up in the National Archives and was reported this week by the Los Angeles Times. Safire did not return a phone call.

According to the memo, in the event of disaster Nixon was advised to call each of the "widows-to-be' before reading the statement to the nation.

Then NASA would cut off communication with the stranded astronauts and a clergyman would "adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to 'the deepest of the deep,' concluding with the Lord's Prayer.'

It has long been rumored that astronauts landing on the moon carried suicide capsules in case their return became impossible.

The Apollo XI astronauts spent more than 21 hours on the moon, watched by millions around the world on TV. Nixon had the happy duty of putting in a phone call to them while they stood on the dusty lunar surface.

But had something gone terribly wrong, these words were prepared:

"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

"These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

"These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

"They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

"In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

"In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

"Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

"For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.'

posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:17 AM on July 21, 2006 [3 favorites]


Part of what makes this so inspiring is trying to imagine that atmosphere of hubris, optimism and sheer faith in our understanding of science and technology that could lead to people seriously saying, "Yes, we can power, navigate and land a manned craft on the moon, and bring it back safely." It's just such an absolutely staggeringly audacious enterprise.

On a lighter note, I'm also reminded of Phil Jupitus' comments (1.7 MB MP3) on why Britain could never have done this.
posted by chrismear at 3:40 AM on July 21, 2006


Yes, but what good did it do us? Dupont got buckets of cash to develop some new fibres, but beyond that, meh. Noone you know is going to the moon any time soon.
posted by scruss at 4:19 AM on July 21, 2006


That Nixon speech is corny as fuck.
posted by the cuban at 4:28 AM on July 21, 2006


It was a very cool moment to watch. We were on vacation in a place with no TV so we all went down to the Shamrock bar (on Beaver Island, MI). Boy was that place crowded. I think being in a large group like that at such a momentous occasion enhanced the experience.
posted by caddis at 4:29 AM on July 21, 2006


I watched Armstrong step on to the moon with my 83 year old grandfather, who had seen the introduction of the automobile, the airplane, rocketry, rural electrification, radio, television, antibiotics, heart surgery, and about 10,000 other "gee whiz" technological innovations in his lifetime. My grandfather was in the early stages of senile dementia, or maybe he was just at the limit of how much change can be absorbed in one human lifetime, but he seriously thought the whole thing was "a show," meaning a fictional story on TV, and he didn't think it was as good as Gunsmoke.

It was an utterly amazing day, though, and one which made everyone on the planet proud to be human, if only for a little while. For at least a few hours there, we had suddenly become, quite amazingly, a spacefaring race, and sober people I knew in a small town in eastern Kansas said that phrase to one another the next day, just, I think, to see how it tasted, rolling off their tongues. I remember overhearing talk from a few breakfast tables in the town cafe the following morning, of the probability that men would be landing on Mars before the boys came home from Viet Nam...

As for the Rice vs. Texas question, this guy has a good answer.

And it's nothing to do with "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."
posted by paulsc at 4:45 AM on July 21, 2006


No, he meant that he hopes you aren't sitting home thinking he's a US fighter pilot standing there planting a spring-loaded American flag on the moon with another US fighter pilot

Nooo... They used to be fighter pilots. They were astronauts when they landed on the moon. Unless, of course, you'd be happy having your every achievement prefaced by what you used to do ("the man who sacked groceries while a teenager...")

That Nixon speech is corny as fuck.

For sure, but that's pretty much what you expect from a president if something like that happend. Reminded me a little of the letter Eisenhower had prepared in the event the D-Day invasion failed.
posted by Cyrano at 6:13 AM on July 21, 2006


Samuel Farrow: the Eagle landed on the moon at 20:17 UTC on July 20, and Armstrong set foot on it at 2:56 UTC on July 21. If we were being Amerocentric we'd say both events happened on the 20th, which many do.
posted by zsazsa at 6:24 AM on July 21, 2006


we came in peace for all mankind

An excellent post, NotMyselfRightNow.

Yes, but what good did it do us? Dupont got buckets of cash to develop some new fibres, but beyond that, meh. Noone you know is going to the moon any time soon.
posted by scruss at 7:19 AM EST on July 21 [+fave] [!]


It became the cultural benchmark for what humans can achieve when they focus on it. What did climbing Mt. Everest or circumnaivgating the globe do?

On a more practical scale, the progam pushed the development of very large, very high payload rocketry. The Apollo program gave us a lot of know how that enabled launching things as large as hubble into Earth orbit, but also that enabled larger multi-stage rockets for Voyager and other planetary probe missions. Before this, rockets were barely capable of reaching low earth orbit.

And before anyone says it, these huge rockets have no military use, as nuclear missles, even ICBMs are far smaller.

In other words, without Apollo, we'd still probably have ICBMs, but we would not have Pathfinder, Voyager, Cassini, Hubble, etc.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:21 AM on July 21, 2006


From the astronautix link:

Houston enlisted his aid in an attempt to locate Eagle, giving him the best map coordinates they could derive from the sketchy information available. With his navigational sextant Collins scanned several spots, without success; Columbia passed over the landing site too rapidly to allow him to search the area thoroughly and he never found the lunar module. Determination of its exact location had to wait for postmission analysis of Armstrong's descriptions of the area and examination of the spacecraft's landing trajectory.

They didn't know where on the moon the astronauts had landed? They were hoping to spot it from orbit??? Talk about high adventure...
posted by Pastabagel at 7:28 AM on July 21, 2006


Inspiring the best Onion headline I think they've ever come up with, from Our Dumb Century:

HOLY SHIT, MAN WALKS ON FUCKING MOON
posted by Zozo at 7:31 AM on July 21, 2006


Too bad it was all faked, filmed somewhere in the Arizona desert.

Heh. I can just barely remember watching this at my granddaddy's house and him telling us kids that it was all faked and nobody was really on the moon.
posted by JanetLand at 7:32 AM on July 21, 2006


Without a doubt, the moon landing is one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind.

Certainly landmark, but one of the greatest? Meh. It was an engineering achievement, no doubt, but certainly not the greatest of all time. (I remember watching it on a black and white TV with ariels.) The probability of Armstrong, et al coming back was never very high. They were as lucky as they were good.

According to the stories I've been told over the years by people in the program, Armstrong was selected as the pilot of the lunar module because he was absolutely unflappable. While in command of Gemini 8, which achieved the first docking of two orbiting spacecraft, the maneuvering thrusters malfunctioned sending the spacecraft into a spin. It got so bad the crew almost blacked out, but Armstrong cooly got it back under control. Cooly is an understatement. His biometric data indicated his heart rate never went above normal.
posted by three blind mice at 8:02 AM on July 21, 2006


As one of those who were around in 1969, this is still THE moment for me. When I see what NASA is doing these days I can only shake my head and recall better days.
posted by tommasz at 8:04 AM on July 21, 2006


"I abso-fucking-lutely am standing on the surface of the fucking moon."

I can see it on HBO or Showtime: A series about NASA where everyone curses.

Another huge hit from the inventive geniuses who brought you "Deadwood".

-0-


I also like how the Orbitz home page pops up with every link. They really know how to cover all of the bases.
posted by wfc123 at 8:12 AM on July 21, 2006


And why does Rutgers play Notre Dame?
posted by wfc123 at 8:29 AM on July 21, 2006


thirty-seven?!
posted by jonmc at 8:33 AM on July 21, 2006


to give NotreDame a day off?
posted by caddis at 8:33 AM on July 21, 2006



Heh. I can just barely remember watching this at my granddaddy's house and him telling us kids that it was all faked and nobody was really on the moon.
posted by JanetLand at 10:32 AM EST on July 21 [+fave] [!]


I wonder why it's so important for some people to believe that we didn't go to the moon.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2006


Space.com commemorates the event.
posted by caddis at 8:49 AM on July 21, 2006


That would be Navy losers of 37 straight and counting.
posted by Numenorian at 8:53 AM on July 21, 2006


the probability of Armstrong, et al coming back was never very high

? We sent six missions, and they all came back (one just barely), so the probabilities of mission success appear quite high from the actual data.

I do think Armstrong flubbed the line, and when I listen to the tape I like to think I can hear him chuckle to himself while getting the last phrase out.

While on balance I think the Apollo program was a penis-display thing, I also think it wasn't that great a waste of money. Sure, our rocket scientists and advanced materials peeps could have designed faster, more efficient mass transit systems with that money, but all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. Besides, doing pointless stuff is what the federal government does best.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:19 AM on July 21, 2006


I remember it. It was a huge deal. I got to stay home from school. I got to spend time with my Dad.

We were stationed in England. We had just got there. Europe was a cherry gig for my dad. It was payback after he had done his second tour in Vietnam. Then, because of that FUCK Nixon, my old man found out he would be going BACK, for a third tour, to Vietnam in the fall to assist with the pull-out of 7th Special Forces.

Anybody that denounces this space program as futile or a waste has zero appreciation or understanding of what was going on at that time.

We were slaughtering tiny little third world nobodies over nothing but the vagaries of coldwar Pseudo-strategy and idiotic arcane colonial alliances. Were are talking the hold-overs of 19th century bullshit. And we were humiliating ourselves, killing and dying for dead abstractions.

Suddenly, the moon landings.... there we were in the FUTURE.

A future that promised something better than napalm, Nixon, and race riots.

When Armstrong stepped off that laughable bubble of degraded alloys onto the surface of a place not yet insulted by the evils of human nature he was stepping into a future of hopeful possibilities for us. It inspired us to greatness.

I remember this because that is what my dad told me. Or. Words to that effect. He told me that if we could do THAT then we could do just about anything we set our minds to. "We could have peace in this world." he said. And there were tears in the mans eyes. After years of seeing the worst in humans. There he was seeing the best.

I will never forget it. Worth every penny.
posted by tkchrist at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2006 [5 favorites]


They used to be fighter pilots. They were astronauts when they landed on the moon.

And now they're just business consultants. Their pasts don't matter.

They were fighter pilots in Korea and then a military test pilot and an air battle instructor at home. These jobs happened to have a little bearing on why they were selected for NASA. They were combat pilots chosen to be missile pilots for a government program that was central to the Cold War arms race. If NASA hadn't been competing directly with Russia's own missile program, there wouldn't have been a 1969 landing.
posted by pracowity at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2006


I was six years old. My uncle was back from Vietnam, married his high-school sweetie, bought his first little house. It was on the little black and white television in his little living room.

I tried to tell him that I had already seen people walking on the moon before.

Pffff....
posted by rougy at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2006


Len, alternatively: Mike Collins, the astronaut circling the moon in the second half of their ship, suggested the following to Armstrong: "If you had any balls, you'd say 'Oh, my God, what is that thing?' then scream and cut your mic."

Yes.
posted by Alt F4 at 10:38 AM on July 21, 2006


tkchrist, Wow, what a powerful post. I hope your father came back okay. Enjoyed your anger about the grotesque political mess at that time and remembered there was such a feeling of hope about the Moon landing, the wonder of it, in spite of a general feeling that the government was not to be trusted at all. I think for many people the landing wasn't just new, strategic virgin territory to dominate, although that may have been NASA's agenda, it was more about the photograph of the Earth taken from the Moon, seeing ourselves with new eyes.

It reminds me of the schmaltzy but nice Bollywood song by Mohammed Rafi:
“Although we hail from different lands,
We share one earth, and sky and sun,
Remember Friends, the World is One!
We want no hate and we want no strife
Since we were born for love and life”.

I like this article from the NY Times about the 30 year anniversary of the landing.

My older half brother was an astronaut candidate and NASA flight surgeon.

Neil Armstrong was in Acapulco December 1969/early January 1970 because I had a scuba diving lesson that had to be cancelled due to the instructor taking the astronaut for a dive.

Len, hilarious mp3. Love that evolution-control site, packed with goodies, like this Dan Rather rap.

Original TV Broadcast [MPEG] and original transmission [Real Audio] and stories. More stories from another site.
posted by nickyskye at 11:00 AM on July 21, 2006


Excellent post and excellent comments. This one's a keeper.

BTW, the landing is one of my earliest childhood memories. On my 3rd birthday, my dad hauled me into the living room and set me in front of the TV. He told me I was getting the best present anyone could ever ask for, the greatest and most amazing achievement in the history of mankind. Of course, being a 3 year old, I couldn't figure out why people wouldn't be walking on the moon. I mean, talking chimps were doing secret agent work, horses gave bachelors advice, Toyko was getting devoured by giant lizards... Anything was possible on TV.
posted by maryh at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2006


Good Luck Mr. Gorsky!
posted by Smedleyman at 11:49 AM on July 21, 2006


/is what I would say if paulsc hadn't
posted by Smedleyman at 11:53 AM on July 21, 2006


Certainly landmark, but one of the greatest? Meh. It was an engineering achievement, no doubt, but certainly not the greatest of all time.

Yeah, even limiting things to the 20th century, I think the moon landing, while more spectacular, comes a definite second next to the elimination of smallpox, and it's unimaginable toll, from the face of the earth and future generations.

But that's not to knock the moon landing, both achievements are in leagues of awesome that defy description. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:00 PM on July 21, 2006



posted by quonsar at 2:58 PM on July 21, 2006


damn. i meant


posted by quonsar at 3:01 PM on July 21, 2006


Aw, I knew what you meant anyway.
posted by sonofsamiam at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2006


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