This year is the 22nd such annual entry, the 15th for the 'Moon Clock'. The 'clock' symbol is based conceptually on the 'Doomsday Clock' of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. In theory their clock striking midnight would mean charred copies of that publication would be drifting across ruined cities.
This 'clock' represents the likelihood of a human being standing on the Moon once again. If and when a person stands on Lunar soil again, the time will read midnight if I am around to update it.
I have left the hands asfrom last year reflecting some stirring of official interest in returning to the Moon, at least in a Lunar orbiting space station. I consider the prospects for future human landings on the Moon still in the realm of uncertainty, however at least they don't seem to be weakening. The inauguraton of sub orbital 'hop' journeys for paying passengers is even the day I type this bringing at least the beginnongs of space flight to prople.
The image at top right is a composite of frames from the Apollo 11 video showing the LM and Buzz Aldrin, using overlapping frames to cancel out video noise and overexposure.
Below: Apollo's footprints will last longer than any on Earth exposed to the elements, but over time even on the Moon time changes things. Micro meteorites and subtle soil movements will gradually erase our first footprints on the Moon over perhaps a million years. This unique moment in our history, indeed the coming and going of Man, is but a moment in Moon Time.
The Twentieth Century will be remembered as among other things a time of unprecedented ingenuity and brutality. Once in a great while Great Projects come about where our skills are applied towards things that benefit and inspire the world. Apollo was such a marshaling of the best of our minds and our industry. It was something most of those who worked on believed in deeply. Apollo was not just another tallest building, longest canal or intimidating weapons system. Indeed it was a nationalistic demonstration of the prowess of the United States over the USSR, but it was also a glorious crusade to bring the heavens within our grasp. Apollo 11 gave a magical edge to that eventful summer of 1969, as titanic cultural forces clashed and flowed past each other in America and across the World. The Vietnam war was at it's height, demonstrations against it were becoming 'mainstream' and chemical visions colorfully enveloped many young minds. NASA was winning the technological battle but losing the mass appeal it needed to sustain human space exploration. In retrospect one mistake NASA made in the Public Relations aspects of Apollo was to never make an effort to let the world see the faces of people on the Moon out of fear of the brief Solar ultraviolet exposure. TV from the Moon was thus largely views of faceless armored forms. The last Lunar expedition gave the world one of the few brief looks at a person without the reflective gold visor, as Harrison Schmitt spoke to us for a delightful minute on live color TV from the Moon.
Now people being on the Moon is little more than an inner vision, and increasing numbers even view it as a fantasy. Apollo 11 was 50 years ago this summer, and forevermore it will stand as a sign of the golden age when such things were possible. Apollo will always be a beacon across the gulf of time, a benchmark, a peak, and a point of transformation in what was possible. So long as history is taught the time which brought about our first steps on another world will attract attention. If the bulk of our future advanced civilization ever lives outside the Earth Apollo will stand as the First Step step to those circumstances. If Humanity never makes it to the Moon again then the fact we could once do it will mark our era as a time when the accomplishments of civilization briefly out paced its pitfalls.
However, now the Moon is 'old history'. The mighty Saturn V rockets lay on their sides displayed like the funeral barges of vanished Pharaohs. The Moon rocks are shown in museums alongside other artifacts of vanished times. The Moon is receding from us and becoming another Pompeii whose artifacts we marvel at under glass cases. Future photographs taken of the Apollo footsteps made by people or their evolutionary/technological descendants may well show noticeable meteorite pitting across the once fresh footprints accumulated over the ages. How different the Earth's civilizations, language, and operating philosophies or even life may be by then! If not, these prints will ever so slowly be sandblasted away unseen, with new craterlets forming atop them until a million or so years hence when the prints will be lost in the eternal pitting of the Lunar landscape.
This time around, the Moon is a bright waxing gibbous in the early evening sky. July 20th this year is, despite news of worrying surges in new COVID 19 variant infections, hopeful as well as uncertain. Today dreams were realized from different backgrounds which brought them together in a sub orbital flight into space. The progress of human access into space is inching forward. The Chinese now have a Space Station and a sophisticated rover on Mars. The Moon still looms over Humanity's triumphs and troubles, patiently awaiting more footsteps as it has for nearly half a century
The chasm of time between today and Apollo 11 yawns a bit wider, the memories of those who remember a bit lessened in their numbers. What it was to be young then and aware of the magnificent things in progress! There was expectation of more and greater accomplishments, there was a magic in the times conveyed in song, writing and in exploration within ourselves as well as beyond Earth. There was also the demon of the Draft threatening young men in the US, seeking to pull them into horrors one should only experience by consent. Above all it was the year human beings experienced being on the glowing orb of the night that people through out time have marveled at. One of the three who were in the Apollo 11 crew is still with us, still carrying the living memory of being on the Moon. That living memory is held now by 4 people out of the 12 who were there.
In contemplating the same amount of time which has passed from Apollo 11 to 52 years before, the first thing to note is no living memory remains. The inexorable process of mortality is of course acting on all those who remember this great day in a Summer so long ago. The balance between living memory and History is tipped toward the latter as the time approaches, perhaps by the 2080s, when no one will be alive who remembers Apollo 11. But let us briefly reach into the time 52 years before we touched the Moon, back to a time lost to living recollection but still felt in its influence. Back through the Pandemic, acrimonious elections, hopes and fantasies, accomplishments and setbacks. A glance at the midpoint of our journey during a brief pause gives the eternal vision of Apollo 11 poised to begin its journey. Then we again accelerate in our leap through the 52 years before 1969, past World War II, hard times, early urban American youth cultures and into the First World War. This dominated the attention and resources of the world as we settle in to briefly and incompletely survey what was going on then.
The terrible tradition of massive troop movements under fire continued to gain a few miles at the cost of tens of thousands of men. Years of this were straining France and Russia toward their breaking points. France experienced decimating losses and soldiers began to grumble. Russia, after launching a productive offensive, collapsed from exhaustion on the front and the end of the centuries old Czar ruler tradition. Vladimir Lenin returned from exile, to be driven away, only to return late that year in the October Bolshevik Revolution which deposed Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky. In the mean time the monumental Trans Siberian railway, begun in 1891, was inaugurated along the breadth of Russia. The Zimmerman Telegram, which was an intercept of the Germans trying to make a deal with Mexico to join the war on their side, along with the German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare prompted President Woodrow Wilson to push for US entry into the war against the Germans and other 'Central powers' in order to as he said 'Make the world safe for Democracy'. Unfortunately in time of Declared War draconian repression of dissent is done, as those who tried to organize protests against the Draft found out. 'Suffragettes' demonstrating for the vote for women were also arrested,
The war effort poured all kinds of men into
the battlefield, however in some regions of the country seeing
the 'wrong' kind of people intruding into their realm was enough
to provoke tragically ignorant responses. In Houston the local
police and government treated black people there badly, and even
black soldiers of the distinguished 24th Infantry 'Buffalo Soldiers',
stationed there from across the country, were regarded with alarm
and hostility. On August 23 a black soldier was pistol whipped
and arrested by a patrolman when, in uniform, he inquired if he
could be of help in a situation. The patrolman yelled about this
being the way we do it here and we run things here not the...racial
epithets followed. When the 24th's Military Policeman went to
the station to inquire about the soldier, he was also pistol whipped
and shot as he tried to flee, then beaten some more and arrested.
Word of this soon spread and enraged the 24th, and some of them
took up arms to march to the police station, understandably regarding
the local police as their enemy. Gunfire was exchanged. 15 white
civilians, including stray rounds hitting the innocent, were killed,
as were four of the black soldiers. 118 of the soldiers were charged,
often on nebulous evidence, with murder and mutiny. 19 soldiers
were speedily hung before appeals could be made and 63 others
given life sentences.
In most of the US, the war touched popular culture in various ways. James Montgomery Flagg's iconic 'I WANT YOU FOR U.S. ARMY' poster had Uncle Sam pointing at whoever looked at it. The patriotic 'Over There' was a hit in two versions that year. 'Hail Hail the Gang's All Here' was a song from then that is still dimly remembered. Jascha Heifetz first publicly displayed his mastery of the violin in Carnegie Hall that year. Popular music was taking off as the 'Dixieland Jazz Band One' performed, and made the first Jazz music recording. Older school music still made the rounds as Sara Bernhardt at 72 made her final American tour. Movies were well established as entertainment with big productions like 'Cleopatra' starring Theda Bara. Among the film stars who made debuts in 1917 were Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Bela Lugosi. The first feature length animated film 'El Apostol' by Argentinean Quirino Cristiani, was made. The first 2-strip Technicolor film appeared that year, the US production 'The Gulf Between'. Mars was romped around on in the imaginatative books by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The heavens were being explored with the 100 inch telescope on Mt Wilson. The frontiers of the mind were groped at by Sigmund Freud in his book 'Introduction to Psychoanalysis'.
Among those who died in 1917 were Buffalo Bill, painter Edgar Degas and sculptor Auguste Rodin. Numerous familiar people were born that year, including Dizzy Gillespie, Kirk Douglass, Desi Arnaz and Zsa Zsa Gabor. One name among all born that year stands in fateful importance to this narrative. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the man who was to make the pivotal decision to reach the Moon, was born May 29, 1917. The time line that led to Apollo can be said to have started with him as well as anyone who ever lived. If Humanity ever expands beyond Earth he will always be remembered among those who put them there.
Here, at this birth year of JFK, is where I am considering concluding this yearly installation. We have for some years ventured ever deeper into the 'dead past' beyond living memory, and references become increasingly obscure. Even the completeness of preservation of films becomes fragmentary by this time. The first animated film and 2 strip Technicolor films mentioned above are both lost, and Theda Bara's 'Cleopatra' survives only in several seconds of fragments. But it is time, perhaps for the last time, to finish this yearly written vigil.
Once again we feel the tug of the stretching
into the past wanting to rebound back to its origin, and the faces
come and go, music wanders and proliferates, and images long ago
burned into the collective consciousness blaze in and out of glory.
the familiar presence of a vast and terrible war is this time
sidelined like a pilot detouring to pass a vast flashing thunderhead.
More and more of what one sees whizzing past is familiar, like
concluding a round the world trip at last seeing familiar landmarks.
The greatest landmark of this textual journey over the years once
again attracts us like moths to the light, or the dead to their
transitions through the Tunnel of Light. A blazingly lit 363 foot
high Saturn V rocket stands like a luminous pillar, connected
with numerous appendages to the red launch tower beside it. Many
spotlights surround the launch pad, all aimed to brightly illuminate
the rocket but with much of their light continuing outwards as
long rays. As we give a last look at the fingers of light spread
out into the humid Florida skies the dazzling structure at its
origin dominates the scene, as well as the attention of the world.
Savoring and passing through that magic interval, we accelerate
again towards our present reality, with again more of what we
see as we move along shared by more people. Some familiar sound
jerks us from our reverie and our journey is like a dream dissolving
under the stimulus of being awake. But there is always the moment
when we are outside, especially at night, and we see the eternal
Moon looking down on us. The old magic resurfaces even if but
for a moment, the flame burns in our hearts that will only fade
with the consciousness that nurtures it. May future generations
have such things to wrap their imaginations and hopes around.
July 20, 2012
July 20th this year gives us a New Moon, sunlit now on it's unseen far side. The side we eternally see is now in darkness except for the blue gray illumination by the Full Earth which anyone on the Moons near side would see in their skies. The Earth in that black sky goes about its business, now reeling from the COVID-19 Pandemic which has disrupted life in so many ways. Earth with its tribulations and passions, tragedies and crusades goes on under its ever changing cloud swirls. The Lunar landscape we see the turbulent Earth from changes only over immense stretches of time. The rocks are very gradually sandblasted and the pitted texture of the surface is rearranged mainly in its centimeter scale details while Earth's temples rise and crumble, cities grow and fall to ruin and entire languages, civilizations and peoples come and go.
The Moon's landscape of eternity regards all this from its deep time perspective as we would relate to the imperceptibly rapid movements of atomic scale matter. A spacecraft closely orbiting the Moon today could see on 6 locations the golden and silver glittering specks of the Descent Stages of the Apollo Lunar Modules and their nearby equipment. These are added to the eternal Moon. Their fate is to be gradually sandblasted into widely dispersed powder and fragments, eventually joining the landscapes they strove to reach. Project Apollo has placed these things on the Moon, where they have joined 'Moon Time' and will probably outlast all the great monuments of the past we admire on Earth.
It is interesting to regard from our present what time has wrought since Apollo 11 to ourselves and to the world. It is at least as intriguing to see where that same interval of time brings us when we look back the same 51 years before Apollo. That tunnel of time joining these three moments is becoming longer and emptier, the collective recall of that interval unraveling. Soon no living memory will span that interval. But while that thread of living memory still has some strands in it, let us briefly travel to it's far end, to the world as far removed from Apollo 11 in the past as we are in our time from July 20, 1969. Let us open our eyes after a moment's concentration to see the world of 1918, with its own tribulations and potential.
The most fateful event of that year was the end of the First World War. That war brought advances in industrialized war making which governments urgently funded to try to gain the advantage in that monstrous conflict. To mention but one the huge German artillery piece 'Big Bertha', the brainchild of Gustav Krupp, fired a shell weighing over 1700 pounds 65 miles. The Germans and other 'Central Powers' were finally defeated, and at 11:01 A.M. November 11 the guns were silenced on all fronts. By then 8.5 million were dead, with populations of European fighting age men reduced.
The world was then fighting an even larger battle, one against a world wide Influenza pandemic. Peoples lives were altered, masks were a new fashion and horrific death tolls accumulated. In one 2 week period ending October 26, 40,000 US deaths were reported. About 22 million would die worldwide, including the soldiers packed together in Europe where more started dying there from Influenza than from fighting.
US President Woodrow Wilson endeavored to prevent future wars with his 'Fourteen Points' proposal to the world. This noble effort was his good side, his racism and vindictiveness was his bad side. While the US was fighting the Central Powers it was also oppressing some of their own people. Civil Rights activist William Monroe Trotter and Anti war activist Eugene V. Debs were to see that side of him. Trotter went to the White House and appealed to Wilson to end racial segregation, only to be abruptly shown the door. Debs was a Socialist activist and a founder of the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the 'Wobblies'. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Espionage and Sedition laws for promoting resistance to the military draft. Wilson supported his imprisonment. His sentence was commuted in 1921 by President Warren Harding. Women could not vote in the US. The United Kingdom that year allowed women over 30 to vote.
In literary matters, copies of the Little Review magazine with installments of James Joyce's 'Ulysses' were burned by the US Post Office.
In science, Sir Arthur Eddington and Max Planck were bringing fresh insight to Physics, uncovering subtle aspects of matter.
In daily life the US began the use of Daylight Savings Time. Air mail started from New York to Washington DC using the first dedicated air mail stamp. Trans continental trucking was initiated by two Goodyear trucks from San Francisco to Boston. There were about 10 million telephones in the US. The films released then included Charlie Chaplin's 'It's a Dog's life'. A song still dimly remembered first heard in 1918 was 'Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here'.
Among those who died in 1918 were composer Claude Debussy and artist Gustav Klimt. Czar Nicholas II of Russia and the Romanov family were butchered in a basement on July 17 by the Communists. Among those who insisted this be done was an up and coming force in the Party, Josef Stalin. Among those born that year were singer Ella Fitzgerald, Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, and writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
The styles, distinctive cars and slang, all the daily life details begin to shrink into the depths of time as we begin our return. The cacophony of music and entertainment mutates and rephrases itself as lives begin and mature. The few strands of memory stretching back 102 years are steadily joined by others weaving a brighter and more detailed vision of remembered events. Wars come and go, flashes of atomic fire in war and research sparkle on the globe, and city lights emerge in the night spreading like sun sparkled dewdrops on webs.
In the exact middle of this journey we again pause to refresh our treasured memory, our vision of the great Saturn V Moon rocket and its launch tower making a spire brilliantly lit by many spotlights. This vision of light and soaring hopes spreads into the humid Florida skies, reaching out to the stars above. The Moon is about to be touched by people for the first time.
Then we are pulled back like someone in a dream being whisked to their waking world. The flashes of people and events that increasing numbers of people carry within them today race past us, all adding up to the present Collective Memory. We look around to our familiar surroundings and for a moment marvel at what we have done and can do. The day seems to be on the horizon when a new generation will know what we have known, that Earth is not the limits for Humanity. But there will only be one first Voyage to the Moon, and we who remember this greatness will for many years to come add that wonder and magic to the stream of living memory.,
July 20, 2020.
The Grand anniversary of of Apollo 11 is upon us. Fifty years, a benchmark by any standards. A time for those old enough to look back and marvel at the turns of events and the people in your life that have brought you to this point. It is the Summertime again, warm nights with friends and lovers, outdoor adventures and happy craziness in the air.
The thoughts of many still wander to the greatness engraved on the date of July 20, the date in 1969 of the first people landing on the Moon. This year on that date the Moon is a waning gibbous phase, still bright enough to see by at night, but through a telescope the shadows across its space-worn face are deepening along the Eastern side. This Moon looms over the night, a visual landmark in our lives as it has always been. Our world changes, within a lifetime what is Home to us is often disfigured and reworked. But the scenery on the Moon is like a vision stopped in time, with changes coming only grudgingly over the ages.
An observer at the Apollo 11 site at this date would see the Sun in the process of slowly settling toward the Western horizon, the Earth a large bright crescent always high in the sky. This Lunar landscape is practically as it was a half century ago, with the gold draped Lunar Module descent stage dominating the scene. The white bags, packs, equipment and such are standing and laying about as they have been since the liftoff from the Moon, some items like the fallen flag showing the effects of the momentary wind of the launch. The pigments on flags and other items show the ravages of unshielded sunlight, with only the blue still faintly persisting in less directly exposed areas. Upon microscopic inspection tiny pits would be seen here and there in exposed hardware surfaces. The footprints still appear fresh enough to want to look behind the Ascent Stage for those who made them.
These artifacts have became part of this place of eternity, and will probably last longer than any existing Earth bound works of Man. They are monuments to what people conceived in their minds and accomplished. They may well outlive the Human Race, not to mention the civilization which fostered such things. It will take something like a million years to erase the footprints of the first Lunar explorers as tiny meteors gradually pockmark and stir the surface. The hardware will last much longer, taking perhaps tens of millions of years to be reduced to grains in the surroundings. The Earth in that sky will have noticeably different continental locations and details by then. Such is the scale of 'Moon Time'.
To the Moon, we people are like light rays flickering individually undetected in their swiftness past our eyes.
For we Humans 50 years is a long time. It is the occasion of the grand reunions among professionals, veterans and classmates. It is the time when whose who remain from this or that great occasion thoughtfully get together and discuss what it all meant. As for those who have been to the Moon, four as of this writing are still with us who have stood there, and another four who have been in its vicinity. Many others who assisted their flights and many more who followed their grand adventure on TV news carry their memories and insights with them. We look back at that epic event and treasure the fact that we were alive to see it and know of it, representing the living memory of many millions of people. Recollections of the music, passions and mass media are shared by so many we think it will always be there as a persistent memory in the Collective Consciousness.
In the days of Apollo, there were many who remembered fifty years before then, a world already virtually vanished. The world of 1919 stands as a century mark in our past, with the glorious flight of Apollo 11 at the mid way point. Let us travel along that path of time, discarding the haranguing of todays news and letting the seasons, the elections, the wars and entire nations come and go as they did. In the rush we almost miss taking our fleeting glimpse of the leviathan standing at its Florida pad, one of many moments that flash by.
The cacophony of events slows and stops, displaying the world of 1919 before us. That world has 1.8 billion people, 106 million of them living in the United States. And it is a turbulent world, with strikes and violence sweeping many of the globe's major cities in social disruption in the wake of 'The War To End All Wars'. The formal ceremony ending the World War took place in the Versailles Hall of Mirrors on June 28, exactly five years after the War was ignited by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. World leaders gathered at the Versailles Peace Conference hoping for the forging of a better world, but the world saw intead politicians being safe and trivial. President Wilson spoke of how the world had to 'be made safe for Democracy'.
In India, hard feelings about the British revision of the Indian constitution resulted in demonstrations. British troops fired on a gathering in Amritsar, Punjab massacring 379 Sikhs. There were labor related riots in cities across Europe and the US. In Italy up and coming politician Benito Mussolini founded the 'Fasci Di Combattimento' Party, and wrote the Fascist Manifesto. In Germany, at a meeting of the fledgling German Workers Party someone spoke up advocating the splitting of Bavaria from Prussia. At once another man, a mustached veteran attending his first meeting, angrily blasted the idea and berated the speaker to the point of driving him from the room. His harsh barking diatribe then went on for another quarter of an hour! Founding party members marveled at this new personality and immediately made him Party committee member number seven, Adolf Hitler.
In turbulent Russia several nations, including America, had made it their task to defeat the Bolshevik Revolution by sending troops to aid the 'White Russian' forces against the 'Reds'. This year saw the Bolsheviks dangerously hemmed in, then regrouping to push the 'Whites' and their allies out to the steppes in defeat. Lenin through all this had to also deal with the blood feud between Trotsky, the military commander, and Stalin as the latter honed his skills at ruthlessly getting things done. Stalin married his second wife, Nadia Alliluyeva, that year. In China, after a humiliating rebuff by Beijing university professors, a rural school teacher named Mao Zedong dealt with the death of his mother that year and began writing about creating a fusion of Marxism and Chinese culture.
In the United States, labor began to assert itself with strikes and violent reactions by management and authorities. Interested parties invoked the Communists as being villains behind the labor rights movement, igniting the first 'Red Scare'. Child labor was discouraged by new related tax laws, resulting in the raising of the average age of the work force in some regions. The condition of the United States road system was tested by the efforts of a military convoy to drive from Washington, D.C. to Oakland, California. They found a vast stretch of unpaved roads from Illinois to Nevada. the torturous trip took 23 days and 19 hours, with 6 rest days. Among the War Department Staff Observation Officers present was Dwight D. Eisenhower.
U.S. Politics were careening in uncertain directions. Early in the year the 18th Amendment, the one instituting prohibition against drinking alcohol, was ratified, creating an underground culture. The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, had been approved by Congress and was sent to the states. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Charles Schenck under the Espionage Act of 1917 for distributing flyers urging young men to resist the draft. The President of the United States Woodrow Wilson suffered a serious stroke late in the year, and First lady Edith Wilson discreetly assumed much of the functional roles of the office.
Fear of immigration made headlines that year, this time the feared hoards were from Southern and Eastern Europe. Racial animosity erupted in the U.S. as black communities were subjected to unprovoked attacks. In the hot months race riots erupted in two dozen American cities, leaving dozens dead and hundreds hurt. Radical fanatics for other causes did things like send out mail bombs, and federal responses to their violence included the Attorney General hiring J.Edgar Hoover to head the 'General Intelligence Division' in its task of arresting leftists and radicals. John T. Thompson introduced the Thompson Submachine gun that would soon become infamous for its use by gangsters and law enforcement.
Sports had two lasting headlines this year both in baseball, one being the record 125,000 dollars paid by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for Babe Ruth. The other was the infamous 'Black Sox Scandal' in which team members of the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series.
A new kind of competition, that of aviation contests, came into its own that year. On May 16 the first flight across the Atlantic ocean took place when a U.S. Navy seaplane taking a roundabout route made the trip in 23 days. The first non stop Trans Atlantic flight was a 16 hour journey on June 14 between Newfoundland and Galway, Ireland. On July 2 the German airship R34 made the 3000 miles between Scotland and Long Island in four and a half days, carrying the first paying passengers in aviation history.
Something beyond aviation had dawned in the mind of Robert H. Goddard, with his publication late in the year of the seminal paper 'A Method Of Reaching Extreme Altitudes' in which the physics of spacecraft were considered, aided by insights from his pioneering work on rockets. One idea in the paper involved sending a modest payload of flash powder to the Moon, to be detonated and observed through telescopes on Earth.
A momentous observation for Astronomy and Physics took place as Arthur Eddington's team obtained photographs from the May 29 Total Solar Eclipse that detected the bending of light in stars near the Sun predicted by Physicist Albert Einstein. The International Astronomical Union was formed that year, which presided over naming of new worlds, features on other worlds, and eventually what kind of worlds they were.
Among the notable people born in 1919 were author Frank Baum, whose 'Oz' books would live on in print and film, and J.D. Salinger whose 'Catcher In the Rye' was almost talked about more than read. Writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti was to make his mark in the cultural changes of the mid century, and Science Fiction author Frederik Pohl would help energize that literature. Nat King Cole, Liberace, and Pete Seeger were born this year as were Politician George Wallace and Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
The notable deaths of 1919 included former President Theodore Roosevelt, steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie and Variety store entrepreneur Frank Winfield Woolworth.
Popular culture had 'Ripley's believe It Or Not' introduced to it as a feature first in the October 16 New York Globe. A new mass media called radio dawned upon the virgin air waves with the inauguration of continuous broadcasting on station XWA in Montreal, Quebec. The movies released that year included 'J' Accuse' by Abel Gance and 'The Devil's Passkey' by Fritz Lang. The film giants D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks formed 'United Artists' that year.
Jazz music hit Europe with the kind of storm that was to be reciprocated nearly a half century later with the Beatles and the 'British Invasion' of music. Hit records of that year included 'I'm, Forever Blowing Bubbles', 'and How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm'.
One work of music crafted at this time has not only continued to be played, it shines as a light toward the future. Igor Stravinsky reworked his breakthrough 1910 piece the 'Firebird' Suite that year into his 'Concert Suite for Orchestra No. 2', the epochal work we now hear played as the 'Firebird'. It is this music that becomes our theme as we begin the inexorable swing from our look into the past back to the world of today. Somehow with this music of Stravinsky we see the hopeful faces, the quests for better lives and better worlds as a kind of current of hope that pulses within the flow of events among all the awful things. The opportunities missed, the resources squandered, the lives lost in such great numbers for such poor reasons winds through the events while the music encircles the terrible and the great within its flow.
Our path through time grants us a 'bounce' giving us a quick pause to glance at the half way point on our journey, the center of the century long time line we have crossed from Goddard to Apollo to today.
It is the break of dawn on launch day, the many nearby spotlights trained on the great Saturn V rocket make it gleam like a white neon light. Most of the beams go on and spread in the humid Florida air deep into the darkness in a vast fan like display. They stretch like extended fingers reaching toward the stars. Intense attention is being paid world wide to this place, this sight. The very pulse of the leviathan is intently studied by rows of men at consoles. Many people are working a miracle. It is an eternal vision of greatness.
The shining apparition in the night then withdraws into the mists of time, we speed up as we rebound toward home while watching the world change from what it was then to what it has become. Continuing to carry us through this journey, Stravinsky's upbeat music celebrates our collective potential. Great things are dreamed and fulfilled through a magic combination of opportunity and will.
The music's conclusion brings us to planet Earth as a blue cloud adorned world in space. It is today's Earth, the sight invites thoughts about what we are up to and where we are collectively going. So much about our destiny is open to question, however we have never been better equipped to understand and work the problems we face. And as we do so, Apollo may well be also followed up on. After a long time, there appears to be stirrings of interest in sending people to the Moon again. On this hopeful note I conclude our journey across this fateful century.
Many remember the Moon landings. About 90 percent of those who were born in 1960 are now alive, with those born before that having better chance of recollection. We who remember the Moon landings currently make up perhaps 35 percent of the present population, extrapolating from a study applied to those who remembered the Kennedy Assassination on November 22, 1963.
Since last years entry another of those who remembered being on the Moon has left us, Alan Bean of Apollo 12. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Spacefest, both of us displaying art. His paintings inspired by Apollo are an enduring legacy of a man who carried his decades old accomplishments forward in his subsequent career. Other people associated with Project Apollo are also, sadly, dying off. Those who made it happen, largely born in the1920s-30s and coming of age from the tail end of World War II to the Korean War, are down to about 30 percent of their former numbers.
When will half of all who remember Apollo, themselves a declining minority of the population, be gone? The 'half life' mortality landmark should happen about 2046, assuming the minimum age for remembering a news event arbitrarily placed at the age of five, the age I remember being told about Sputnik in Kindergarten. The mortality of that age group will steeply decline around 2046 until about 2065ish when Apollo is as lost to memory as by then will be the World Wars. The linear time remaining for living memory of Apollo is at about the length of time in the future that Apollo 11 is now in our past. We are about half way in time between the first Moon landing and when it will have passed from living memory, which is granted just short of a century. But the glorious echoes of fondly remembered things take on a life of their own, they silently thread through our collective lives and emerge as we occasionally yearn for other times, other lives. And the Moon waxes and wanes across the skies as events on Earth whiz by under the face of the ancient Moon, whose surface tells us much and reveals possible resources for future Lunar settlers. But that may be in the future. This month the eternal Moon will have grown just past half in the evening sky by the 20th, A Moon with a brightening future including an Eclipse July 27 people in Asia and Europe will see.
Reaching the Moon is the 'center post' in the bridge crossing the gulf of time between today, 49 years ago in the year of Apollo 11 and 49 years before. This year places the distant time landmark in 1920, now just beyond living memory. But those times have their echoes still with us, the passions and aspirations, hatreds and follies people acted upon then wearing different labels and uniforms in later times.
Two men we would hear much of later were advancing
their careers, both briefly hired by their governments to spy
on organizations whose causes they would come to embrace. Adolf
Hitler was discharged from the Army that year, and he gave a pivotal
speech in Munich outlining the grim agenda of his adopted 'Nationalsozialistiche
Deutsche Arbeiterpartei' party, to be henceforth known as the
Nazis. He exploited widespread resentment at the punitive Treaty
of Versailles, which was ratified that year. In the wake of the
civil war between Russian factions following the October 1917
revolution, Poland and the USSR fought a war over the fate of
the Ukraine in 1920. A rising red star, Joseph Stalin, was sent
to help oversee military operations. The peace treaty ending the
war, which the Red Army got the worst of, infuriated Stalin and
began his bitter dispute with Red Army founder and initial commander
Other places affected by the aftermath of the World War included Turkey, that year involved in fighting with occupying Western armies even as the last Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire was signing a Treaty of Partition. Before the fighting was over Constantinople would be occupied by the British. In the first major battle of the Turkish War Of Independence the French and Armenian armies were driven from Marash, to the misfortune of the remaining Armenians repatriated there. Mustafa Kemal, known as 'Attaturk', would become the first President of Turkey later that year and the secular government would formally dissolve the Ottoman Empire, comparable to the fall of Rome in historic significance.
In the middle East, the French were fighting their way through Syria. Arab wrath over the 1917 Balfour Declaration was brought out in fiery speeches including one by the later infamous Amin Al-Husayni. He would later become the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Terrible riots took place in that city with precedents established that sadly continue in their influence to this day. Ireland was partitioned and forcibly brought under British military supervision, reaction against which were to escalate into tragic blows and counter blows that year and long after.
A hoped for means to better the human Condition world wide was the formation of the League Of Nations that year, although it lacked the membership of the US and did little in its quarter century of life.
In the Unites States the transition from war
to peacetime life was punctuated by events of lasting significance.
The 18th Amendment was put into law early that year, the Prohibition of manufacture and sale of Alcoholic beverages. This failed imposition on personal freedom served to spawn enculturated defiance of such laws with underground 'speak easys' where hopefully authentic drinks could be had. The 1920s marked a rise in the urban 'counter culture' and in the spreading of popular entertainment. Records and films were mass media of growing influence. The first commercial radio stations, WWJ in Detroit and KDKA in Pittsburgh, began broadcasting. Three years later there would be 500 radio stations in the US. The election of Warren Harding was the first to be broadcast on Radio that year.
A then unknown but significent landmark in human health matters came about 1920 with the first cross overs occuring of the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus to become the Human adapted version, HIV. This happened in Kinshasha in the present Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the wake of the World War and the deadly
'Spanish Flu' epidemic which killed a comparable number of people
as the War, Youth culture took off as if there was no tomorrow.
The very decade was to become known as the 'Roaring Twenties'.
Mass aparticipation in popular culture was becoming a factor in
the lives of those coming of age then. An 'underground' culture
as would emerge again 40 years later became part of young life.
Women assumed clothing and grooming styles less covering than
before, with hair and hemlines getting shorter. The origin of
the word 'Flapper', as a slang term for young women who liked
to go out and drink and dance and publicly smoke, seems lost to
history. Some have it as a coarse term for women who are dancers
or of 'loose' moral character and prostitutes. One story has it
springing from a British fad of girls playfully walking with unfastened
galoshes. A casually unbuttoned overcoat fluttering in a moving
car has also been mentioned as a romantic image of urban fun loving
young women. Cars were becoming more available, and the American
urban population that year first began to outnumber that of the
rural farming communities.
American women assumed unprecedented political power in 1920 as the 19th Amendment finally gave them the right to vote. In September that year terrorism would first strike New York, in the form of a 'wagon bomb' in Times Square, killing 38 and wounding 400. In the aftermath of this act, later attributed to Italian anarchists, an ambitious lawyer named J. Edgar Hoover was put in charge of organizing numerous raids of suspects. Many Communists, Anarchists and such were arrested during America's first 'Red Scare'. The New York State Assembly refused to seat 5 elected Socialist Assemblymen. The American Civil liberties Union was founded that eventful year. A creative moneymaker named Charles Ponzi funded aspects of his growing business with new investments, a practice unstable in due course. His name now labels such a scheme, which once a generation seems to resurface.
Science had its appreciation and ridicule in print that year. Arthur Eddington published the report on the detection of light being bent by the Sun during the previous year's Total Eclipse, confirming a prediction in Einstein's General Relativity theory.
The star Betelgeuse became the first to have its diameter measured using clever analysis of it's light at Mount Wilson Observatory.
The New York Times published that year a scathing
ridicule of the work of American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard,
ignorantly claiming a rocket needed a medium to act against. In
1969 a correction was run in the paper as Goddard's dream of a
flight to the Moon was coming true.
A musical milestone of that year was the first performance of the finished 'Planets' by Gustav Holst, in London. Ralph Vaughan Williams composed his haunting 'The lark Ascending' that year. Popular music ranged from 'Swanee' by Al Jolson, to the emergence of the 'Harlem Renaissance'. The first 'blues' record by Mamie Smith, 'Crazy Blues' was a landmark recording.
Deaths that year included Robert Peary (born 1856) who is credited, with dispute, with first reaching the area of the North Pole on April 6, 1909. Among those who would be known to many who were born that year were actors Ricardo Montalban, James Doohan and Deforest Kelley. Science fiction authors Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert were born in 1920, as was Psychedelics popularizer Timothy Leary. Another who would make a mark on the 60's, musician Ravi Shankar, also arrived that year.
As these babes in arms live the lives that take them to their destinies, let us put on a whimsically happy record of the time...perhaps 'Whispering' by Paul Whiteman, or 'Cuban Moon' by Carl Fenton's Orchestra. Let it whirl under the needle as fresh young music as we sweep again across the years, the decades, the lives and the deaths, onwards to see people and nations come and go under us. The record before us is changing into something old, the music scratchier and the tone feebler. Looking up, we almost miss the beacon of the half way point, the blazingly bright needle of a Saturn V bathed in many spotlights. Their light spills past the giant rocket, spreading into a vast fanning radiance visible in the night for many miles. It is a beacon of a landmark in human history. Then it shrinks and fades, the cycles spin the view into confusion. Less trees grow, ancient hills are less green and more building covered. We suddenly, as if from almost dozing off, are sitting before the dusty and battered wind up record player, with a worn scratched wax record just reaching the end of the barely audible ancient song. The room and the view out the window is familiar, but an appreciation of how things have changed over the years adds to the sight. Here and there are scraps of vanished times, all in the context of the world that has come. How much will things have changed before again we see a rocket that will take people to the Moon beaming its glory across the night?
The Moon again calls attention to itself this
year, not only for an anniversary of what was but for its role
in the coming Total Eclipse. A rare alignment with Earth and the
Sun will lead to the Moons shadow crossing the United States in
August this year. Millions will gaze at the Moon as a dark circle
blotting out the Sun for about two momentous minutes. They will
marvel at the silvery luminance surrounding the Sun denied us
except when the sky brightness is thus removed. But as the anniversary
comes, the Moon is a thinning crescent seen by few in the early
morning hours. The light of living memory of those who remember
Apollo still shines brightly, but the number of lights steadily
decreases. Since last year we lost Eugene Cernan, the Last Man
on the Moon. Dear friends who treasured seeing such things on
TV are dying, each another of the cloud of dispersed candle balloons
winking out as they climb into the depths of the night.
The path of Living memory still stretches both directions in time 48 years from Apollo 11, but just barely. Contemplating what an interval of time can mean brings thoughts of the state of things in the times mentioned. Although many of my readers cannot remember the 60s, enough do so the curious can learn from many first hand accounts, so I will still treat some working knowledge of the times of Apollo as a given. I close my eyes and first hand memories of the music, things personal and places I lived then come to mind. But 48 years before 1969 it was 1921, a time the curtain of life is closing on except for the artifacts, film, paper and a modest number of those who recognise their significance. None of my readers will probably remember those times. A few scattered people may still in their dying memories recall a song from then.
1921 was a time of resurgence from the First World War, but also a time of honoring the dead as France and the United States interred their Unknown Soldiers. Germany was having crushing war debts applied to them, fostering resentment. Runaway inflation was wiping out savings there, rapidly leading to masses of high value notes being frantically rushed about as they dropped in value. One opportunist taking advantage of that unstable climate was the scurrilous fanatic Adolf Hitler. The 'Storm Troopers', or 'SA', of his young National Socialist party were already making a bloody reputation for themselves. In Italy Benito Mussolini strutted himself to the position of 'Duce' or leader, of the Fascist party. In Japan the young Hirohito inherited from his retiring father the position of Prince Regent.
It was a time of rebuilding of cultures with the influence of rising technology and mass media. Young people in the West, particularly the US, adopted styles and dances that alarmed their elders, even to the point of here and there legislating permissible skirt lengths, such as no less than four inches below the knee. Medicinal alcohol was cracked down on. Radio was emerging as a mass medium, that year the first regular programming was broadcast from KDKA Pittsburgh. The British Broadcasting Corporation was also established. Movies included 'The Sheik' with Rudolph Valentino and 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'. A pioneer of recorded sound, Enrico Caruso, died in 1921 after leaving a legacy of over 160 recordings. In medicine perhaps the biggest story was the isolation of Insulin, soon to help many diabetic people. The chromosome theory of heredity was postulated by Thomas Hunt Morgan. A German rocket theorist named Hermann Oberth wrote his dissertation 'The Rocket Into Interplanetary Space'. In another harbinger of the future, Billy Mitchell demonstrated the ability of aircraft to sink a battleship.
A novelty of that year was the first demonstration of a radio controlled driverless automobile. Regular air mail between New York and San Francisco was established.
As we in our imaginations follow such a mail plane crossing the country we shall also cross the gulf of time from then to now. Below us vast stretches of empty country become crisscrossed by roads along which towns sprout. At night they look like gleaming drops of dew on spider web strands.Here and there these grow and merge, glowing far into their surroundings by night. Above all this, the Moon is examined by telescopes, made a destination for probes then people, and midway in our journey set foot on for the first time. Then this and the other landings quickly happen, the high water mark of human exploration comes and goes in a flash. Thereafter the Moon is left alone, later to be revisited by more advanced probes. While looking up we have reappeared in the world of today. The Moon is an early morning waning crescent with the soft glow of Earthlight outlining its shaded bulk against the darker sky. Once again we look at it and treasure the memory of the time people were there.
The Moon is glowering down on us just past full phase this year at the actual anniversary of the landing, its cold light making the scenery an abstraction of moonlit shapes and black shadows. Bats whirl about silhouetted in the brighter sky near the Moon. Timeless sounds of insects and other life persist among those of expanding civilization. The Moon will always be there as the scene below it changes, as will the memory of when Humanity reached the Moon The bridge of time between Here and Now and There and Then over time grows wider and thinner and more brittle. But many still travel that bridge of Living Memory. Now many will think of Apollo, see the bright Moon filling the night and ponder those magical times. What happened to light and then extinguish such a wondrous flame?
Apollo 11 is a Beacon in time, a lighthouse
of a realm of what was and is possible. But the beam sweeps both
ways, and I find it intriguing to look back at the world of the
same period of time before Apollo 11 as we are after. The pace
of the inventive and ground breaking processes operating in the
two equal intervals bears pondering.
When the first Lunar Expedition was launched the Moon was a thin sliver, becoming a wider crescent by the time of the landing. The shadow angle at the landing site was chosen carefully to allow maximum visibility of the surface relief, and the landing site was thus near the inner edge of the crescent Moon that fateful afternoon. 47 years later that Moon is just past its fullness, but still bright with potential. The Moon of July 20,1969 was young and full of promise.
At that date in 1922 the Moon was a waning crescent. The world of 1922 was one of the waning of the pre World War One order and the sowing of the seeds of new forces that would shape the century.The British Empire was fraying at the edges, Their Middle East mandates being forcibly protested in Egypt and Palestine. In India they were particularly irritated by a troublemaker named Mahatma Gandhi, whose civil disobedience campaign led to his being imprisoned for sedition that year. Killings and reprisals in Ireland made trouble closer to home. The French presence in Morocco took a violent turn as a revolt there cost some 700 French lives. The disastrous Greek war against Turkey was in defeat climaxed with the retaking by the Turks of the ancient coastal city of Smyrna. In the process the city suffered one of the worse fires in history with tens of thousands killed. Mustafha Kemal proclaimed Turkey a Republic that year.
In Italy Bonito Mussolini bullied his way into power and formed his Fascist government. In Germany 50,000 people turned up to attend a speech by Adolf Hitler, then making the transition from rabble rouser to politician. Albert Einstein fled Germany that year out of fear for his safety. In Russia Vladimir Lenin appointed Josef Stalin to General Secretary of the Communist Party, a title he would hold for the rest of his life. Soon afterward Lenin suffered the first of a series of strokes which would become a path to absolute power Stalin was not slow to exploit. That year the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formally named. China was concluding its civil war with competing generals defeating each other until two were left, Wu Pei-fu in the North and Sun Yat-sen in the South. The Chinese Communist Party was organized, among those attending the first Party Conference was a young library assistant and schoolteacher named Mao Tse-Tung.
Across the oceans, in the United States, the stock market boom was in full swing and times were good. Signs of official reaction to an emerging counterculture were warnings about the use of 'hip flasks' that people hid illegal liquor in and the establishment of the federal Narcotics Control Board by President Harding. Harding also banned liquor from all ships entering US harbors. Coal strikes made big news much of 1922. The post office mandated that mailboxes were necessary for mail delivery to houses. The Dirigible Roma crashed into power lines and exploded in the outskirts of Norfolk, Virginia, killing 34 men. Annie Oakley, veteran of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, broke a record by hitting 98 out of 100 clay tosses at a range of 16 yards.Readers Digest magazine was founded and gave compressed versions of many works to American homes. In literature, among the memorable books of the time were 'Siddhartha' by Herman Hesse, 'Tales Of The Jazz Age' by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and 'Ulysses' by James Joyce. The latter book had shipments from Paris intercepted by the US Post Office with 500 copies burned at once. Movies of note included 'Nosferatu' and 'Nanook Of The North'. Among those creating great music were Irving Berlin with 'April Showers', and an up and coming Louis Armstrong.
The tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen was discovered,
unique in not being robbed of its treasures. Roy Chapman Andrews
began the first of his series of expeditions into Mongolia which
would yield revelations about prehistoric life. The Russian biochemist
Alexander Oparin announced the 'Primeval Soup' model for the conditions
where life could have arisen on Earth billions of years ago. The
Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Niels Bohr of Denmark.
The white blood cell was discovered, and Insulin was first made
available to diabetic patients. Irregular Galaxies were first
defined by Edwin Hubble during his massive Galaxy observing campaign.
The British first demonstrated a vertical takeoff helicopter.
In the US the first flight across the continent by a woman was
accomplished by Lillian Gatlin, taking 27 hours 11 minutes. The
furthest climb yet up the slopes of Mt. Everest reached 26,800
feet, some 3200 feet below the summit. In this year when maps
were still being filled in on Earth, a major volcano was discovered
in Alaska, later named Aniakchak.
Among those who died in 1922 were Telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell who in 1876 spoke the first words on such a device to another. Among those born were Actress and singer Judy Garland, columnist Jack Anderson and Israeli statesman Yitzhah Rabin.
Since then so many births and deaths have happened, the range of Living Memory shifting steadily forward. Back then there was still ample Living Memory of the early 1800s. After briefly glancing at the misty echo of that time the elderly of 1922 held within themselves, we turn around and start back along the barely intact bridge of living memory between then and Apollo 11. Clothes, cars, songs, household items appear, mutate and disappear in a dizzying cacophony. The Moon is during that time studied with increasing pace in the last decade once we decide to reach it. Then we slow down and pause in wonder at the reference marker of our journey, the spot lit Saturn V rocket ready to take men to the Moon. The many lights around it spread up and out in dozens of beams fanning out past the brilliant tall spaceship, going far into the humid Florida night. Armies of people nearby tend to its vital signs, sitting at rows of consoles. Now we begin the leap back to our time, through the closing acts of the cultural reformatting of the 60s, past Punk Rock and Disco, past the emergence of digital formats for music and video, and we settle to a standstill back where we started in 2016. More than half of those who have been to the Moon are thankfully still with us. But when it comes to the overall 'living memory' aspect of this it is sobering to note that we are half way between the time of Apollo 11 and when no one will be alive who remembers it. As things are going it is hard to not be concerned about the possibility that by then no one will remember being able to go to the Moon. But we shall see.
The Moon is a waxing crescent this year, more or less as it was that magical July as we crossed the threshold into being a multi world species. While Apollo shines as a landmark in history, It is also like a lighthouse steadily dimming in the distance as we sail away. It is 46 years since people of this world first visited another, decades of trends, events and reinventing of popular culture. The Moon as a destination is receding behind the veil of generational disconnect, as has the Second World War to young people. The 'Greatest Generation' who went through WW II and then marshaled the technological might of an affluent Post War America displayed not only what 'we' could do but what Humanity could accomplish. That generation is now sliding down the plunging mortality curve at peaking rates.
We are also collectively sailing within sight
of a sober milestone. We are approaching the half way point from
the time of Apollo 11 to when there will be practically nobody
left who remembers it. Half way to when our being able to travel
to the Moon is lost to living memory, as today is the Wright Brothers
first flight and the First World War. As of this writing there
are still a couple people alive who have lived in three centuries,
being born before 1900. These last fragile links with a lost era
steadily give way to those of later times, with almost everyone
else passing on decades before. The far horizon of living memory
carries us all to it like the galaxies following the expansion
of space to greater depths apart from each other. The time dimension
of the Human Drama involving living memory serves each generation
in turn and can have something of it's Great Stories and lessons
passed on. Everyone has 'big moments' they will always remember.
lesson of my times is that if enough people pool their skills
they can make such moments beneficently happen. Hopeful signs
of reappraisal of likely paths for human access to space are taking
Thus our continuing potential to do such great things comes to times that invite re introduction of the idea that the Moon can be within our grasp with several years of robust commitment. The details of how it could be done now cross contentious lines in the space community but in time some trends could well sort themselves out. For a long time the likelihood of people returning to the Moon has been uncertain at best, and yet one has never felt more confident in our ability to continue to perform engineering miracles to accomplish such a goal. The nearness of the Moon continues to work in its favor as instrument packages are being designed to be sent there.
There continue to be reasonable odds things could turn around in a few years. Like a stock market or climate graph trends can be sought in the short term wiggles, yet where one finds themselves at after a while can be surprising.
To continue my little tradition of looking back to the corresponding point in time as far into Apollo 11's past as Apollo 11 is to us, let us hop beyond that historic beacon to that year opposite it in the same time interval, to a time nearing the frontiers of the horizon of living memory. It is 1923 again.
The world of 1923 was lacking only a few coastlines
on its maps, mostly in Antarctica.
The mapping of the local Universe achieved a milestone when Cephid Variables, stars of known behavior and brightness, were detected in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. This began an era of cosmic distances being narrowed down to.
The Earth trembled in Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan,
devastating the cities and killing about 120,000 people. As the
young Emperor Hirohito toured the ruins little did he know this
would not be the only time he would see Japan's great cities in
ruin only to rebuild to further greatness. In Turkey Mustafa Kemal
was elected President of Turkey. In Russia a debilitating stroke
suffered by Lenin was to ultimately benefit the patiently plotting
Josef Stalin. In Germany inflation was placing the value ratio
between the German Mark and the Dollar into the millions, then
to 4 trillion! People would start pushing piles of Marks to the
store in a wheelbarrow and be robbed for the wheelbarrow.
In the US, The 'Teapot Dome' oil scandal hearings were part of what once was a continuing political news. We lost President Warren Harding, with Calvin Coolidge taking the reins of power. The Ku Klux Klan was making a nuisance of itself, thankfully being dealt with through the legal systems wherever they showed themselves.
Social Morals of the young were changing, much as what was to happen four decades hence. Prohibition in the US was beginning to unravel as states started refusing to fund enforcement. This was as the government began flying air patrols to try to catch people smuggling in liquor. The US was in places involved in contrasting social movements and concerns. A fad was 'dancing until you drop'. Popular songs included 'Yes, we have no bananas', and perhaps he most memorable was 'Rhapsody In Blue' by George Gershwin. A fresh voice named Bessie Smith recorded her first records and began a long tradition of hits. Popular movies included 'Robin Hood' with Douglas Fairbanks.
Aimee Semple McPherson opened a temple of sorts in Los Angeles, among the pioneers of American radio preachers. Legend would have it that she was eventually interned with a working phone line within her grasp to use when she was brought back to life!
Triumphs of machine and human endurance included the first non stop airplane flight across the United States, taking 27 hours. The English Channel was traversed by Argentinean swimmer Enrique Tiribosche in 16 hours 37 minutes. The four minute mile was achieved by runner Paavo Nurmi.
Among those born that year were astronaut Wally Schirra, statesman Henry Kissinger and mime Marcel Marceau.
Somehow every year has something to say about it, with remaining fond recollections still to be shared by many. Let us ride the tide of dreams and memories back to where we live, in bounds over times of hope, of destiny, of tragedy and of renewal...time and again here and there. Like the full Moon gleaming through the night rain clouds, a vision of the spot lit Saturn V beams its yearly greeting to us. Then this vision withdraws into the distance and becomes but a dot on the horizon. It is brought to mind in moments of wandering thought as the Moon catches our eye. The world next door beckons as well as it reminds us. Whatever the past, the future is malleable and responsive to directed effort. Let us manifest people on the Moon again. In this year when we have seen Pluto revealed let our thoughts turn again toward human presence in space exploration.
Apollo looms in our memories, as does the waning crescent Moon in the early morning skies on this anniversary of our first being there. The Moon is a face of eternity. Like the Sphinx's eternal gaze past human history, the Moon impassively overlooks the appearance and vanishing of entire species on the blue world half of it always faces. The Moon is aloof to our political and monetary initiatives and paralysis, stonily silent to the rise and fall of our mayfly civilizations. One of these civilizations sent several missions there within a few years, but since then only recently have we shown renewed interest with orbiters sent by the US, Japan, China and India. But plans for new human space flight there continue to find the funding commitments elusive.
Whether or not Humanity ever ventures so far again is for the future to decide. That future will need at least the resources we could bring to bear today, something we can comfort ourselves in assuming will always be available. Just as our ability to make plans in this life are subject to sometimes unexpected mortality, so it is with our civilization we live in. An illusion of secure permanence can lead one to the fatal mistake of putting desirable things off indefinitely.
Like someone acting under hypnotic suggestion that they can no longer reach out and grasp something, we look at something once within Human experience with no thought of touching it again. Generations after Apollo have grown up with the knowledge that our reach in the past was greater than it is now with human presence in space. Some have found it easier to adopt the idea that the Moon landings never even happened.
Space exploration in the mean time proceeds nicely with the largest asteroid and the furthest traditional planet (both redefined since 2006 as 'dwarf planets) and a comet to be visited by spacecraft within a year. But I, who remembers seeing a populated Moon in the skies, miss the days when we could visit another world.We who remember this are starting to die off individually, but for some years to come we can still remember seeing the missions on TV. We can now admire and meet people who have seen the scenery of the Moon with their own eyes. Apollo in general and the Moon in particular is thus still within living memory. The collective experience of the surviving Second World War generation who principally made Apollo happen is steeply declining in numbers. The more decades that pass with no return of human beings to the Moon, the sooner the Moon will join the vanished collective memory of the soldiers of the First World War which started a century ago this year.
Let us go to that wonderful summer of 1969, a time so great to be young that it cannot be communicated to later generations.
The impact of that moment is such that we still hear that eras music in many a public place. The TV ads now play the music of that time to those who remember when it was new, now at the peak of their productive careers. The echoes of that moment of human history not only provoke nostalgia but also reverberates in our future imaginations and in our fantasies of what could yet be. 45 years ago, through the gulf of political intrigues, reshuffling of world concerns, progress and tragedy, the clouds of time part like the clouds from around the Moon itself. The great Saturn V rocket brilliantly shines in many floodlights fanning their beams into the humid night sky beyond. Crews sleep their last night for a while on Earth. Rows of intent people look at the life pulses of the mission displayed on small TV screens mounted before them. Over a million people migrate to nearby viewing sites. Television networks prepare to suspend all TV programming for news coverage of Apollo 11.
Again we take the same leap into the past, another 45 years in the depths of time. What did that year, 1924, have for people to hear about and live through? What kind of world were those who are now 90 yeas old born into? Calvin Coolidge was elected President, and J. Edgar Hoover became head of the newly renamed Federal Bureau of Investigation. After a rebellion whose outcome was judged contrary to US interests, soldiers were sent to Tegucigalpa, capitol of Honduras. A modest resettlement movement to Africa by seminal black activist Marcus Garvey was suddenly rejected by the Liberian President. Immigration into the United States was going through its own dramas, with the Immigration Act of 1924 excluding entry by Asians, Arabs and Indians. This was the year of the debut of execution by gas chamber in the US.
Vladimir Illyich Lenin died in January of 1924, clearing the way for the ascendency of Stalin who was in the mean time maneuvering his enemies into undermining their positions by fighting each other. In Germany, would be coup leader Adolf Hitler faced a judge and was sentenced to five years. He would be released before the year was out.
Those interested in sports would hear of the American football winning streak of Notre Dame under coach Knute Rockne. The first Winter Olympics were conducted that year in France.
An obscure company was founded by Thomas Watson, International Business Machines Corporation.Dutch physiologist William Einthoven won a Nobel prize for his invention the Electrocardiagram. Using the 100 inch Mount Wilson telescope in California, Edwin Hubble first detected stars in the nearby Andromeda galaxy. This established galaxies as common and that we were inside one of many rather than uniquely situated. A momentous look into the past was had as the golden sarcophagus of Tutankhamen, the only Pharaoh to escape tomb robbers, was revealed.
Among the movies people were watching then was 'The Thief of Baghdad' starring Douglas Fairbanks. Future movie actor Marlon Brando was born that year, as was future President Jimmy Carter and author Truman Capote. Among the deaths were authors Franz Kafka and Joseph Conrad, and politician Henry Cabot Lodge. George Gershwin premiered 'Rhapsody In Blue' in New York. Some other memorable popular songs from then include 'I'll See You In My Dreams', 'California Here I Come', and 'It Had To Be You'. One song, 'See See Rider' would be played for young audiences in the Apollo era.The music of the Roaring Twenties glides past us in happy tinny melodies, time itself winds around us like a spinning 78 RPM record, sounds merging with flickering surroundings forming a tunnel we whisk through.
We leap over everything in between then and now with only one brief pause. We admire the column like behemoth of the Saturn V roaring as it ascends on a pillar of fire a thousand feet long.
Then we resume our swift passing to the days we now find familiar, to the smells and sounds and the attractions and trials of our lives. However far back our memories go, few now reach the 90 years we have just traversed. Again we look up at the eternal Moon, to whom the journey we just took is as nothing. Footprints made 45 years ago still look as fresh there as the moment they were made half a long lifetime ago. As we who remember grow old and die, may there be others who know of and perhaps somehow inherit the sense of wonder and accomplishment we felt, within the context of their abilities and passions. May they one day decide it is worth doing for reasons that even now may lie gathering dust on the shelves of history. May the Moon one day again be seen as the realm of Man by everyone who looks at it.
Don Davis July 2014
On this 44th anniversary of the 'One Giant Leap', the man who took that 'One Small Step' is gone. On August 25, 2012, US flags at NASA sites and elsewhere flew at half staff against the rising gibbous Moon. The passing of Neil Armstrong is symbolic of the Moon proceeding to pass from living memory, with 8 of the twelve who have been there now remaining. Living memory of momentous things is carried along the better part of a century with an events effect on masses of people well beyond the actual participants, as part of the passions and joys and despair attached to things millions will always remember. We are now passing through a brief interval when there are people whose lives have spanned three centuries and two millennia, four women as of this writing. They have seen many wondrous milestones come and go, somber and terrible, amusing and remarkable. But very soon the 1800s will have vanished from all current human life spans. Living memory really starts several years later and improves with the numbers involved, which naturally expands as the birth dates move ahead in time. Now it is the veterans of the Second World War who are on the steep slopes of the mortality curve, quickly joining their vanished counterparts of World War One, 'The War To End All Wars'.
To the Moon we are as May Flies passing by in a quick blur. It is aloof from our history, oblivious to our ability to reach it then or ever. But it also shines as a beacon to remind us of what was, and is, possible. It looms over the changing surroundings as a place we have collectively been to. We can wonder at the accomplishments shining through the increasingly hazy past, but how many wonder what has happened to the sense of momentum of progress we had until the time we went there?
Uncertainty dominates our view of the future. The past, however, is laid out in sequence with its lessons and trends, and especially its achievements we celebrate. What happened in the 44 years preceding Apollo 11 is also sobering to compare and contemplate as a 'mirror into time' anchored on Apollo 11. Has the breadth of leaps in fundamental changes quickened or slackened between those two 44 year intervals? It depends on what you focus on, but no one can doubt enormous alterations in much of life has taken place in both. The number of people who have living memory of both spans of time are rapidly declining. Most people reading this will have living memory of only part of the post Apollo interval. Look back with me now with the aid of our Collective Memory, and marvel a bit at the times and the lives of that simpler, wider and fresher world between the World Wars.
In our reach across the spiraling vortex of time, 1925 becomes our resting point this year, the same interval in the past of Apollo 11 as has transpired since. Some things happening then have cast their shadows across World Affairs for 88 years to this very day.
Among the people born in 1925 who would touch the world in various ways were Malcolm Little (X), Robert F. Kennedy, William F. Buckley, Paul Newman and computer pioneer Seymour Cray. There were nearly two billion people in the world in 1925, almost 116 million of them in the US.
The year started with the announcement of a discovery by 35 year old Edwin Hubble that the Andromeda 'nebula' was actually another vast galaxy, and that the Universe was thus far larger than previously measured. In world politics, the assumption of absolute power in Italy by Benito Mussolini consolidated the first Fascist government. Adolf Hitler was then mending the shreds of his National Socialist party, and published the first part of his rambling rant 'Mein Kampf'. In the mean time Field Marshall Paul Von Hindenburg became President of Germany. In Persia the Pahlavi Dynasty was founded as Reza Khan became the Shah, deposing the previous Dynasty. The Shah would be removed by the Allies during World War Two, then later replaced when it was considered in their interests as Stalin looked greedily at the region. His son would lead Iran for better or for worse until he was ultimately replaced by something far worse.
Turkey, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal, took a firm turn toward secularization and moved toward a European model of society with the abolition of polygamy, turnover of old dress customs, and the adoption of Western alphabetical characters. In far away China, Zhongshan, known to us as Sun Yat-sen, died in Beijing. His successor, Jaing Jieshi (Chaing Kai-shek) then led the Nationalist Party. He could not know then that Mao TseTung's Red Army, then spreading across Outer Mongolia, would ultimately prevail with Chaing retreating to Formosa, now known as Taiwan. In the Soviet Union, Trotsky was suffering the consequences of opposing Stalin, losing his post as head of the military council and soon to lose everything else. Two other luminaries in the Soviet government, Zenoveiv and Kamenev, joined Stalin in sacking Trotsky, but by the end of the year they too would know their days were numbered. American women were breaking new political ground with the election of the first woman Governor Nellie Taylor Ross of Wyoming. United States interests were guarded by force across the world, first in Shanghai, to assist Americans caught in the chaos of revolution. Another revolt, this one in Honduras, endangered it's American community and soldiers were sent there, with American interests in Panama later also drawing US troops. At home, the most memorable headlines of the year certainly include the July 10-21 Scopes 'Monkey Trial', which came about after an act of defiance by John T. Scopes against a Tennessee law making it the first state to prohibit the teaching of evolution. His trial became the first to be nationally broadcast live. Scopes was technically convicted but procedurally acquitted.
Nature brought beautiful and terrible spectacles in 1925, a Total Eclipse darkened the skies of a narrow zone of America, including New York City. A huge tornado swarm ravaged Missouri, Indiana and Illinois killing 950 people.
The fads of the time included crossword puzzles, the 'abbreviated columnar' look of the 'Flapper' dress, and wide bottom trousers in college students, the latter which was publicly denounced by President Coolidge! The dance craze of the day was the 'Charleston', and the wilder dances of Josephine Baker were 'knocking them dead' on the Paris stage. The Paris Design Exposition formally introduced 'Art Deco' to the world. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald was published then, as was Kafka's 'The Trial'. Among the magazines introduced that year was 'The New Yorker'. In Chicago's West Side the first Sears store appeared, where the items long sold in their catalog could be bought. Gifts could soon be wrapped with the aid of 3M company's Scotch Tape invented that year, designed at first as an auto painting masking tape.
After hounding by the Bureau Of Investigation, the ancestor of the FBI (complete with young zealot J. Edgar Hoover), the persecution of United Negro Improvement Association leader Marcus Garvey reached a climax as he began serving a five year prison sentence over a trumped up mail fraud charge. In a little over two years his sentence would be commuted by President Coolidge. In Washington D.C., 40,000 Ku Klux Klan members had their first national congress. The huge hooded parade marched to the Washington Monument, where their plans for a fire ceremony were drenched by rain.
Among the big films of the year were Chaplin's 'The Gold Rush', and 'The Phantom Of The Opera', with Lon Chaney's role remembered to this day. Film was taking to the skies, as another hit of the year 'The Lost World' became the first movie to be shown on a passenger flight. The 'stop motion' dinosaur puppets animated by Willis O'Brien for 'The Lost World' marked a major step in film illusion. Television was undergoing its first physical incarnations in London from the workshop of John Logie Baird. In that year he demonstrated first moving silhouette images, then on October 2 the first live mechanical television images of a young office worker, Edward Taynton, using his ingenious but ungainly mechanical television system. Still images began to be distributed to multiple locations by wire. Radio was presenting important stories and entertainment to growing audiences, the inauguration of Calvin Coolidge the first to be widely broadcast. The WSM Barn Dance broadcast began, later to be renamed the 'Grand Ole Opry'. The mobility of electronic media was taking new steps with the first demonstration of a wireless car phone in Berlin.
Automobiles were growing in numbers and variety, including new models manufactured by Walter P. Chrysler. Enclosed cars began dominating the market, displacing the open designs derived from the horse drawn buggy. Numbered interstate highways were introduced then, and improved roads made possible the record setting drive that year across the United Stated of 4 days 21 hours. Seeing the wave of the future, the first motorists hotel (motel) opened in San Luis Obispo, California.
The The Air Age was still new, It's over reaching significance still grasped by a few. One such person, Billy Mitchell, was court martialled that year for his out spoken resistance to perceived official Army neglect of air defense. The Space Age was still the stuff of fantastic stories, however some theoretical foundations for traveling in space and shifting orbits were laid by Germany's Walter Hohmann, who published 'The Attainability of Celestial Bodies'.
In our imagination we let these ideas whisk
us high above the Earth, pausing a moment to look down and see
the land and seas through the cleaner air of those days. We speed
ahead faster and faster, following the Earth through space and
time. Once again, the whirring blur below bears within it the
flurry of changing songs and clothing styles, past the crises
and wars big and small, to the days of the Soviet Empire and the
West facing each other behind fences of missiles. We see the biggest
rockets ever built trying to go to the Moon, the Soviets failing
and the Americans succeeding. Onwards, through the times of cultural
mutation and the phases of their own distinction thereafter coming
and going, the pages of time like images of old flapping by as
one turns the crank. Through all this, the stars are virtually
unchanging, allowing for a nova and a major comet now and then.
The Moon's face remains inscrutably impassive, any new craters
too small to see from a distance.
Below, ornate pointed skyscrapers rise in cities, become grimy, and are steadily replaced by simple glassy blocks. We note the years which saw another billion people added to the world population, recalling it took from the beginning of the Human Race until early in the 1800s for our numbers to reach one billion. On 1927 we reach our second billion, with another added by 1960, '74, '87, '99 and finally 7 billion in 2011. Suburbs spread, the stars retreat as urban areas spread their brightness far around them. Invisible world wide information networks grow denser, becoming a major aspect of human interaction with which information becomes more available than ever in some ways, but more restricted and commodified in others.
We slow down as the songs and many trappings of everyday life become familiar again. We ease ourselves into the world of today with a sense that we still have hopes of spreading Human destiny to other places in the skies. At least some of us feel that way. The first obvious destination which we reached in 1969 is always there, and will always be there. It means more to us, with living memory of people being on the Moon, than it did in 1925. Once the last man who has been there is gone, the living memory of the experience of being on the Moon will be as extinct as that of fighting in the First World War. But it will take a much longer time for living memory of people being on the Moon to be extinguished, probably by about 2075, assuming life spans by then are similarly constrained as now.
So we have continuing hope that at least some of the younger space fans who were thrilled by Apollo will have the satisfaction of seeing on live visual media people on the Moon once again. Although the sense of upward momentum of the early space age is now but an aging memory, we have continued the technological development in many fields that would greatly assist any renewed effort to put people on other worlds natural and man made. We still have a chance to do these things, but no one knows how long will be too late.
This year, the 43rd Anniversary of Apollo 11, the Moon is a thin crescent setting in the evening twilight. The day we first dared to make the Moon part of Human experience recedes another year into the twilight between the experiences and memories of the living and the chronicles of dead history. Each year the Moon sheds more of the living memory of those who brought us there, the younger members of 'The Greatest Generation' who came of age during the Second World War. The Moon bears a collective mantle of pride from the generation who made Apollo happen, but the beautiful living memory of the accomplishment steadily blows away like a Tibetan sand painting in the wind. History in retrospect has a sense of inevitability to it, Tolstoy ponders the physical and crowd psychology factors as well as chaos that were in play at the pivotal Battle against Napoleon at Borodino in 1812. So it may be with why Apollo became our 'high water mark' rather than a start of expansion of Human presence in the Solar System. If the 1968 election had elected Hubert Humphrey it seems likely the initial surge of exploration would have continued and broadened. If Vietnam hadn't been the focus of resources that dwarfed those that went into Apollo, discretionary funds spent toward space exploration might have seemed more inviting. Or perhaps not.
The Moon landing also serves as a sign post
in History, a benchmark that is intriguing to ponder where we
were 43 years before 1969, double the reach into the past. It
is sobering like seeing a video of your young self. One is tempted
to compare the progress between those two intervals. And so we
rise above Earth, and will ourselves 86 years into the past to
1926. Earth corkscrews a path through the Universe following the
Sun as the cities shrink, the air clears and the clothes, cars
and a thousand little things change form and flash in and out
of existence. Earth exploration reached another milestone as Richard
E. Byrd and Floyd Bennet first flew a plane over the North Pole
in a 16 hour trip. Science was pushing back the age of Earth past
the one billion year mark, a figure that would under further inquiry
settle on slightly over 4.5 billion years. The world population
was reaching two billion people, about a century after our numbers
at last made the long hard climb since the last Ice Age to reach
Here and there in the world people whose influence would carry far were assuming power. The political rise of Mussolini was completed with his assuming the title 'Il Duce', and he proceeded to make the trains run on time and his enemies run and hide. Hirohito became Emperor of Japan, with his reign to see Japan swing wildly in its fortunes. In Iran, Reza Kahn consolidated his rise to power as Shah and assumed the name 'Pahlavi', balancing his dealings with the Moslem fanatics there between accommodation and open warfare. An obsessive egomaniac named Adolf Hitler published volume two of his antisemetic conspiracy book 'Mein Kampf'. One day it would have the contradictory status of the most bought and least read book in Germany. In the USSR, poor Trotsky was expelled from the Politburo, taking the career Zinoviev and others with him. Opposing Stalin was a good way to be stricken from the Book of life, and retouched out of old photographs. Stalin's daughter, Svetlana, was born in 1926 and died last year.
Movies that are remembered to this day that came out in 1926 include 'Metropolis' and 'Battleship Potemkin'. Rudolph Valentino died this year, grieved by an adoring public as no movie star had been before. Home movies had a new format, 16 mm film. People who would be stars in film and TV born this year include Marilyn Monroe and Andy Griffith. Others we would hear from later that were born in 1926 include Queen Elizabeth II, Fidel Castro, Allen Ginsberg and Hugh Hefner.
In the US, the Roaring Twenties were in full swing. Prohibition had created an 'underground culture' which was to continue over time as opportunistic authorities decided this or that state of mind foreign to them was deemed immoral and made illegal. Open warfare in the streets of Chicago was one public consequence of the nefarious 18th amendment. Inventions of the year include a practical television system, demonstrated in the UK by John Logie Baird, pop up toasters and aerosol spray cans. One invention especially fateful for Humanity first flew March 16, a liquid fueled rocket hand built by Robert H. Goddard. Radio telephone service across the Atlantic was inaugurated between New York and London, as was commercial air mail. The road system of the US allowed greater range for travel than ever before, Route 66 becoming a major path through the nation that year. Cars traveling such highways were being built by the influential industry of Henry Ford, who that year declared a reformatting of his business from a 48 hour 6 day work week to 40 hours and five days. The gas used in the cars cost as low as eighteen cents a gallon.
A book published then and remembered today
is 'Winnie The Pooh' by Alan Alexander Milne. A publication that
is still remembered by many, Amazing Stories', first appeared,
with editor Hugo Gernsback at the helm of the first Science Fiction
magazine. The infant medium of radio had its first major network,
NBC, inaugurated late in the year. Popular songs included 'Bye
Bye Blackbird' and, ironically enough, 'Reaching For The Moon'
by Ben Bernie's orchestra. Listening to the latter song of longing
and lonliness the dreamy glee of a lost time, the idyllic interval
between the World Wars, recedes into the sepia toned mists of
photos in albums and yellowing books on shelves. We travel from
the year of the first rocket that was more than a firework, then
hop to the time of the Great Saturn V which stood as tall as the
fabled Pharos of Alexandria. Both were Wonders of the World, both
Now we see prospects for new rockets and new ways to enter orbit struggling up the development ladders while we pay the Russians to send astronauts to the ISS. We shall see what schemes make it past press conferences, models, and animations. Whatever the uncertainty in our future in space, we at least have advanced a good deal in spacecraft design with the benefit of many lessons gathered along the way. Although there are no efforts being made to land people on the Moon, there is momentum for new generations of roving vehicles remote controlled from Earth, so there are prospects that the Moon will be experienced at least remotely. The day may come when the Moon can be explored with the experience being widely shared in real time in home computers and in domed theaters.
We can hope for the future, but there is nothing
like remembering something yourself, remembering looking at the
Moon and knowing it to be within the realm of Human experience.
Somehow some things seem so impossible, others so inevitable.
What can we make of the forces that once in a great while converge
so miraculously? That so many of us remain to ponder a day when
we dared to stand on another world is comforting, something epochal
like living at the time of a great Prophet that will always be
remembered. Perhaps it is the realization of Human Potential that
can work miracles that is the biggest legacy of Apollo 11. The
Moon sets in our deepening twilight only to rise elsewhere.
Thanks to Jim McDade for referring me to the record 'I'm reaching for the Moon'.
The waning Gibbous Moon rises like a pale yellow
lamp into the warm desert night. The Moon as a place continues
to grow further from us, to be an enthusiastically reported event
in yellowing pages of summaries of the events of 1969. It will,
as all great events of history, live within our culture so long
as the generations who appreciated it lives on. The 'baby Boomer'
generation, tightly defined as the bulge in birth rates between
1947 and 1952 but 'stretched' by generous definition well into
the 60's by some, has never enjoyed more catering to in advertisements
than now. The ability to land on the Moon will not only stand
as an episode of epoch making achievement, the Moon may yet figure
in human adventure to come, if the remaining passenger seat on
a waiting Russian Lunar tourist voyage can be sold. Such a trip
around the Moon may serve to break a psychological barrier we
may have to considering voyages beyond Low Earth Orbit. The more
time passes since the days we marshaled such manpower, the more
fabulous, the less imaginable in todays world and economy such
a thing may seem. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, which I visited
last year, required an average of one stone block being set into
place every few minutes if the entire structure was to be thus
built. 'Liberty Ships', still stored in floating rows in the North
San Francisco Bay, were being turned out at a rate of one every
8 hours in 1943. Such things sound fantastic in todays world however
when talent, money, and a Great Idea to accomplish a goal come
together sometimes wonders can be worked. Such was done in the
magic transformative time of the late 1960's.
The '60s are beginning to be a long time ago. Imagining the time between now and then and then doubling that, to gather sense of perspective in time looking both directions from that hallowed date, is an indulgence I offer again this year. But 42 years ago is too long for increasing numbers of my potential readers to personally share. 42 years ago from the perspective of 1969 was 1927. Silent movies were still being made, but the end was in sight with October's debut of 'The Jazz Singer' starring Al Jolson. The silents still had life in them, evidenced by the premier of the French director Abel Gances' epic 'Napoleon', restored this year. 'It' with Clara Bow, made her the 'It girl' of that year. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig made baseball headlines. Hit songs of 1927 included 'Ol' Man River' from 'Showboat', and 'Blue Skies'. Ten year old violinist Yehudi Menuhin first performed publicly, starting off with a flourish his life long career. Thomas Edison celebrated the 50th anniversary of his invention of his phonograph. A book from this year destined to be well read ever since is 'Steppenwolf' by Herman Hesse. Transportation for individuals advanced with the introduction of the Ford Model A that year. The exceptional traveler could make historic milestones, like the daring May 20-1 solo crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh. The mysterious Mongolian deserts were first being explored by the team of fossil hunter Roy Chapman Andrews, braving dust storms and warlords to among other things find the first dinosaur eggs. Andrews saw the disintegration of the Chinese government from the chaos of his dealings with government representatives then. The Soviet Union had its own government reshuffling going on as Stalin expelled Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Party, thereafter vilifying and liquidating them. A general in Nicaragua made the Americans work to hold ground there, Augusto Sandino. A scurrilous and increasingly volatile Adolf Hitler was released by the German Government from restrictions on his public speaking, addressing the first public meeting of the newly formed National Socialist German Workers Party. In America and Western Europe the 20's seem to be remembered in retrospect as a 'play time' where societal restrictions were being noticeably re evaluated. The 'Roaring 20's, in retrospect might thus be considered a 'distant mirror' of the 60's in some ways.
And so we move back from that time of happy tinny music, past the depression and the New Deal, through the gunfire and bombings of the terrible World War to come, to slow in the post war era and briefly pause to glance at that magnificent Saturn V and launch tower gleaming in a night amid a wide 'fan' of spotlights, about to carry the first man to the Moon. Then we whisk past the Apollo program, past the end of the Vietnam conflict, leaving behind the 70s and their decadence and developments, past the 80's with the next generation asserting themselves, through the Reagan/Bush era and the weaving of the World Wide Web. The re alignments in allies and enemies and the flashes of news great and horrific slow down to place us back here with so much to remember between now and then.
The Moon is pale and bright high in the warm desert sky now, helping hide the Milky Way. Bats dart about hunting flying insects. The Moon still lights up the desert rocks, our rooftops and our paths. It still looms as something to reflect upon as past ages never could. A reminder of what was and is possible, and will be for some time to come. Somehow I think there will be people up there again within the lifetimes of many who remember being able to go to the Moon. This is admittedly an article of faith now, but so has it been for so many years! Those of you who were born too late to remember, to me its importance was such that given a choice I would never be born significantly apart from my actual time at the end of the 'baby Boom' surge. Such is the magic the Moon still holds for we who remember. May the choices be made so you can have your own moments of looking up at the Moon and knowing there are people up there.
July 20, 2011
1969 is beginning to be a long time ago. The recent abandonment of the Moon as a factor in Human affairs makes it seem a little longer, bringing the wonderful images of Apollo into the cavalcade of images of the grandeur of past civilizations. Newer political leaders try to make changes from the past course and sometimes delight in erasing the pet projects started by their predecessors, like the new pharaohs defacing the statues and monuments of their forebears. The previous year has not been kind to those who yearn to see the Moon returned to Human reach. Between the economic convulsions and the political reappraisals of the times, it seems hard to justify establishing a settlement on another world. It is clear that only a small minority of enthusiasts even care about such things. The Space Station was conceived as a stepping stone to the Beyond, it has instead contracted its mission to represent the sole permanent Human presence in space. After the retirement of the remnants of the Shuttle fleet the US will lack any means to reach the ISS itself, until commercial launch systems can hopefully be weaned into handling the task. Other countries make occasional statements about going to the Moon, but when it's all said and done there is a lot more said than done. In the mean time the U.S. orbiter continues to map the Moon in unprecedented detail with its final data set promising to be a treasure. If and when future civilizations want to go the the Moon, if the data (and our technology) survive that long it will prove useful to them.
Using 1969 as a 'time mirror' is intriguing to visualize the intervals of time on both sides of that pivotal moment in history. Now the time interval since 1969, applied to before Apollo, takes us to 1928. In aeronautics the Atlantic Ocean was still the subject of firsts, such as Amelia Earhart's first flight across it by a woman. The gargantuan Graf Zeppelin made its first passenger crossing of the Atlantic. Our ability to probe the universe improved with the completion of the 200 inch telescope at Mt. Palomar, for decades to come the largest telescope in the world. The eventual rocket trips to the Moon were first seriously visualized in the German Science Fiction film 'Frau im Mond', by Fritz Lang. who as a dramatic device for the film invented the 'countdown', later adopted in rocket launches and atomic tests! Medical news was highlighted by the discovery of antibiotic properties of the Penicillium mold by Alexander Fleming. Events in the world made news and contributed to the flow of events. Hirohito was crowned Emperor of Japan. Haile Selassie was crowned King of Ethiopia under the name Ras Tafari. Radio and films were the mass media, with the Will Rogers 'cowboy philosopher' broadcasts beginning, and the movies showing a new comedy team named Laurel and Hardy. Television was trying to emerge from the experimental workbenches, as the first receiving sets made in the US were offered for sale. Among the births of the year 1928 were Andy Worhol, Stanley Kubrick, Shirley Temple and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara.
And so another year passes, and the Moon becomes a steadily dwindling collective memory, the time when we could go there dying along with the people who remember it. Some day the last person who remembers will see the Moon and be reminded of a time unknown to everyone else alive then, presumably in the 2060's, as now the last veterans of the 'War to End All Wars', the First World War, are leaving us. The time before WW I was written of by H.G. Wells in his 'Outline of History' as a golden age never to be regained. Will Apollo 11 look the same as Living Memory of the Moon drains away? There are dreams of commercial space flight, but even sending people to Low Earth Orbit is now a long ways away with such means. Commercial justification for trips to the Moon seem to be a pipe dream. Still, we who remember know it could be done, and until Peak Oil consumption happens and closes it's fist around civilization it can be done again. May there still be some who remember if it happens again. May our being on the Moon never pass from living memory.
This year sees a Moon which has been recently orbited by probes launched by Japan, China and India, and the USA now has a well equipped orbiter scanning our neighbor world. It is good to see attention paid again to our shining neighbor in the heavens, always beckoning, still perhaps to be one day revisited by people. As a new administration takes over, the political continuity once again undergoes a convulsive reappraisal of ongoing priorities. NASA spent months without a new administrator being named, while the biggest economic down turn since the Great Depression was in progress. It is hard to imagine voyages to the Moon will last long among the priorities. Nagging doubts about the new rockets involved plague the process even as hardware is taking shape. The sands of time are running out for the Shuttle program, and the interval to come in which the USA will lack a capability to launch people into space looms ahead as an uncomfortable uncertainty. The time line for an actual landing on the Moon keeps being pushed further into the indefinite future.
In the mean time careful searches of government paper trails have at last revealed the fate of the fabled slow scan telemetry data of the Apollo 11 television transmissions. Many years ago all the data tapes were gathered, erased and recycled due to a shortage of tape stock in times of reduced funding. Thus perished the best quality Apollo 11 television signal before it was compromised by the video converters of the time. Scraps recorded in Australia on super 8 film of the superior signal provided by the Honeysuckle Creek facilities are all that exist. Tantalizing clues linger of another pair of missing Australian tapes possibly bearing a copy of the slow scan data. NASA gave a media briefing in July 16 admitting the loss but also showing samples of efforts to optimize the appearance of the best surviving video copies of the Apollo 11 EVA video. In a process similar to the restoral of a nearly lost silent film from scraps scattered world wide, video from news networks and other sources was gathered and duplicated with modern methods. Samples of the ongoing work were shown which were clean of 'snow' and other noise but suffered reduced detail compared to the originals.
As the Moon we saw revealed that wonderful July day shines down upon us, the percentage of those who remember it as I do steadily declines. It has been 40 long years since TV gave us the first shadowy images of fellow human beings on another world, 40 years since the Heavens welcomed us when we ventured beyond Earth. It is getting harder to anticipate a New Frontier beyond the Earth as we could back then. A journey starts with the first step, and 40 years ago that first step marked what is beginning to look like a 'high water mark' rather than the start of a trend. The Moon was a waxing crescent when we first visited it, today the Moon is a waning crescent, fading with more of the lives of those who made it's first human visits possible. Walter Cronkite, a man whose journalistic professionalism helped generations appreciate the importance of the Space Program and so much else died July 17. Another giant of those times thus passes into history, part of the silent migration from the living to the dead of those who remember the days when we dared to dream big. The passing of time invites looking across the panorama of memory, leaping onward to the recorded knowledge left by those who have come before. 40 years is a long time, the events in that snippit of the Time Line inviting sober reflection. Using Apollo 11 as the 'reference point' centered between 40 years of it's past and future is an interesting exercise. In this moment of history we are ending a brief interval where a small number of people have lived to see three centuries in their life times.
What was our world like 40 years before Apollo 11? Twice the distance into the past takes us a lifetime away, where many WW I vets and indeed those of the Civil War were still telling their stories. A spectacular silent film set in WW I, 'Wings' won the first Academy Award for best picture that year. The silent movies were fading fast, with directors using sound as soon as it was practical such as Hitchcock's 'Blackmail', Britian's first 'talking picture'. For home movie makers Kodak introduced 16mm color movie film. An enduring song released that year was 'Singin' In The Rain'. 80 years ago a connection with America's 'Old West' faded with the passing at age 80 of lawman and gunfighter Wyatt Earp. Contemporary crime took on an intensity possible with machine guns with the Chicago 'St. Valentines Day Massacre', where seven men were slain in a beer warehouse sparking public outrage destined to end the flamboyant career of 'Scarface' Al Capone. The October 28 Wall Street 'Black Friday' brought catastrophic losses to the stock market, beginning a convulsive transition to a poorer America where millions of people learned to make do with next to nothing. In the Soviet Union Leon Trotsky paid the price for opposing the absolute rule of Joseph Stalin, banishment and months of being a hunted 'man without a country'. Human access to distant locations improved. The Graf Zeppelin, leaving from Lakehurst, NJ, flew around the world in the record time of 21 days 7 hours 26 minutes. Coast to coast passenger air service in the US commenced that year, making several stops and sleeping in trains at night during the 36 hour trip. The world was rapidly becoming accessible to growing numbers of people even if few could afford to go anywhere. In 1929 we were reaching our furthest at the time, as the first flight over the South pole by Admiral Richard Byrd took place, and building the highest with the beginning of construction of the Empire State Building, tallest building in the world for many years to come.
Looking both 'directions' 40 years from Apollo 11 brings us a widening view of the evolution and faltering of our progress in expanding the places people can experience. The dream that Apollo 11 was the first step in Human presence being established elsewhere dies hard among those of us who treasure our recall of that magic time. It is a dream for a time when Ability meets Will, a realization of a potential we will always know can be done because it has been done.
Once again the gulfs of time are seen to have spread a little more widely, a few more people connected with the journeys to the Moon are gone, and museums show replicas and rarer real artifacts of the era when our reach extended to other places a person could stand on. Now the world is a harder place to work such miracles. The will do do great things is being sapped by the cost of energy and other economic tremblings causing people to look at the stability of their banks rather than up at the frontiers above. Now oil money is funding the tallest structure ever conceived, a mile high skyscraper in Saudi Arabia. The old 'Spirit of America' which once exulted in doing the formally impossible is in 'traction' with only time telling how well any renewal will proceed. The greatest thing coming from the Moon this year has been the amazing HDTV transmissions from the Japanese KAGUYA (SELENE) spacecraft. For the first time since the Apollo era stunning video can be seen passing over familiar Lunar landmarks, and showing Earth rising and setting behind the Moon. These images are better than any moving images from the Moon that Apollo has left us. In the mean time the digital archiving of Apollo photography is proceeding, the results of which will be priceless.
The past extends to Apollo 11 from now through a gulf of 39 years, and again the leap of the same step further back brings us to 1930. The question nags along the way, was progress faster and more vigorous in that time interval before Apollo 11 or the years afterwards? The answer is obviously yes to faster recent progress in some realms, but in others, such as our powers to spend the vast sums preparing for wars on noble things to enrich mankind, we are as helpless as lemmings massing for the next march off the cliff. One has to look at the progress of air and space flight since 1930 to 1969 to wonder if we have since reached the point of 'diminishing' returns regarding breakthroughs in those fields. Around 1930 the world population was 2 billion people, less than a third of todays. Banks were failing in 1930, the Bank of the United States in New York taking with it the savings of half a million people. Flash bulbs were introduced, at last allowing instantaneous photos to be captured in dim light. The first 'supermarkets' appeared in the US that year. A Yellow Fever vaccine eased the death rate due to that cause. Investigations of the outer Solar System rewarded Clyde Tombaugh with the discovery of the last of the 'classic planets', distant Pluto. Today a spacecraft speeds toward that small icy world, no longer officially a planet but now known to have numerous moons. It may be that true exploration of space is fated to be a vicarious experience through the extensions of our senses provided in faraway places by far flung robot probes. But there was a time when human beings did the exploring, and the furthest we have thus collectively reached is still remembered by a large but ageing percentage of the populace. The Moon looms bright over the uncertain world on this anniversary, bearing the remnants of our journeys there. Some day those may be the longest surviving artifacts of human existence on this world.
This year the anniversary of Apollo gives us a Moon looking something as it did that glorious July day, when it was a waxing crescent in the warm evening skies. To be alive then and able to recall the moment when Humanity existed on more than one world is a treasure beyond words. 'White Bird' by 'It's A Beautiful Day' hangs in my mind, one of the memories of that wondrous era when the fabric of reality itself was being explored on a number of fronts. The collective journeys took some of us along in the adventure of Apollo, for many others the 'Space Program', as it was called when there indeed was such a thing, seemed irrelevant.The 'Vision for Space Exploration' is proceeding in methodic but languid fashion, with things looking scary on the hardware front. The new launch vehicles being developed for the VSE are fighting weight and performance problems even as the designs begin to be acted upon. The new Lunar Lander is gaining weight at a terrifying rate, as did the Apollo LM in its development days. The engineering problems are one thing, assuring political support over the required time after changes in administrations is another. It is still the most hopeful period of time since the end of Apollo for those who long to see live TV from the Moon again. The post World War II national mind set to 'be the greatest' and to 'build the biggest' and otherwise proudly show what we can do may be faltering, but perhaps it is just the basic improbability of any given idea being given life by a group of resourceful people and money. A troubling sign that our 'spirit' may have been broken by '911' is that we seem to be afraid to build the tallest building in the world because of the evacuation time required. If China or some other nation managed to return to the Moon only a minority of Americans may feel 'left behind' by then. In the mean time there has been no luck in finding any of the three copies of the original telemetry tapes of the Apollo 11 television broadcast. It is another year to look at the images we have, and admire the accomplishment. The 'inner flame' in my heart has the Moon over it. I don't care what percentage of people don't believe Apollo happened, either it will happen again in their time or it won't.
The look back in time is instructive, because by now a large percentage of my readers will remember the events of 38 years ago but not those of 76 years ago, double the interval of time between now and Apollo 11. In 1931 Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor (with help) of electric lights, sound and motion picture recording and many other things, died. A plan to shut off all the electrical devices in the United States for a minute in tribute was compromised because by then electricity had become essential in too many ways. Unemployment was a global pandemic, with starvation being averted by narrow margins in some places across the industrialized world. Prominent gangster Al Capone was finally imprisoned in 1931 from tax evasion charges. As a haranguing rabble rouser named Hitler cajoled his way to power, German films like 'M' by Fritz Lang marked the last breath of creative freedom to come from there for some time. American horror films entered a golden era of sorts with the release of 'Dracula' starring Bela Lugosi and 'Frankenstein' with Boris Karloff. In art a well remembered painting was created by quintessential surrealist Salvador Dali, 'The Persistence of Memory', with it's sagging watches in a dreamy setting. Looking back promotes looking forward. When 38 years have passed, will we have bases on other worlds or will even being in orbit appear as distant as Apollo does to us today?
The heritage of Apollo is crumbling into dust and flying away in the wind. The pristine data recorded from the Moon at the Australia Honeysuckle Creek Observatory have only recently been recognized as bearing the best quality recording of the Apollo 11 moon walk video, yet searches for the boxes of tapes have turned up nothing. The last tape machine able to play those data tapes rests in a facility scheduled for closing later this year. While the best video was apparently allowed to become lost, the carefully archived Lunar samples have over the years due to failed seals become contaminated by air and humidity, to the point that much of the information hoped to be gathered from yet untested Lunar material has perished. The Moon fades from our grasp like an aging mountaineer putting off for too long revisiting a challenging climb. The current plans to return to the Moon are faltering under the burden of bad planning which sows the seeds of its own failure. there is still hope that the writer as well as the reader of these words will live to see people on the Moon again, however it is increasingly becoming a matter of faith. Gazing again at the widening gulf of time on either side of the great year of 1969 brings us to regard not only the 37 years since then, but at what that same interval ending at Apollo 11 carries us to. In 1932 the West was still mired in the Great Depression. Newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the phrase 'The New Deal' in his acceptance speech, while that year U.S.Veterans once again got a 'raw deal' as their Washington DC tent city was demolished in a bloody army raid led by General Douglas MacArthur. What for decades was considered the 'Crime of the Century' tragically unfolded as the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped then found dead after the ransom was paid. The same daring flight Lindbergh had accomplished five years previously was done by Amelia Earhart that year. Short wave radio was first tested by Marconi, an invention which brought radio programming to world wide audiences. Werner Heisenberg was earning the Nobel prize of that year for formulating Quantum Mechanics while James Chadwick shed more light on the building blocks of matter by discovering the Neutron. And what of our end of the 'double time line'? To one yearning for a return to the Moon, the ray of hope offered recently is getting harder to see. In a few decades the last of those who remember watching TV from the Moon will be regarded with the patient indulgence of the young for the ravings of the aged. But as long as we live we will carry within us the sacred memories of the most privileged generation in history, that which combined the daring and abilities of an affluent post war America to accomplish great things. And the Moon continues to loom over us all, slipping from a place open to Humanity to a shape changing light in the sky as the ancients knew it.
Using Apollo 11 as a 'time mirror' to survey the widening gulf between then and now is sobering.Traveling 36 years before Apollo 11 brings us to the year 1933, the year the Austrian demagogue Adolf Hitler celebrated his rise to power in Germany with fires fueled by piles of books as well as by the Reichstag. It was the year FDR declared "The only thing we have to fear is...fear itself!". 1933 was the year FM radio was first demonstrated, as was broadcasting of the first educational Television programming, from the Iowa State University station W9XK. The faltering film company RKO was saved by the 'monster' hit film 'King Kong' featuring the animated models of Willis O'Brien and the screams of Fay Wray. The year ended with widespread celebration as the disastrous imposition of Prohibition came to an end. Now the Moon has moved a little farther away. More people born after this time never knew what it was like to live in a civilization capable of sending men to other worlds, and fewer of those who know remain. Few people even see returning to the Moon as worthwhile, however the trend is toward smaller percentages of the population feeling strongly about almost anything. This year there is more hope that it could happen again, however this writer who has seen hopes raised and dashed before patiently awaits signs of dreams becoming reality. When designs are frozen and hardware is being built that will be the time to look at the Moon not as a sign of the past but of the future.
35 Years have now passed since Apollo 11, and when again using the 'historical mirror image' approach we see that 35 years before the year 1969 Prohibition had just ended in America, and famous criminals Bonnie and Clyde as well as John Dillinger died in hails of police bullets. Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, and astronomer Carl Sagan were born in 1934, the same duration before Apollo 11 as we now are from that great event. Adolf Hitler proclaimed that year that his Third Reich would last 1000 years, and with the death of German President Paul Von Hindenburg he consolidated his power with the aid of his army of thugs. Time is leaving behind the world of voyages to the Moon as surely as the events between the first two World Wars, all receding into the fog of the dead past. There has been a flurry of hope this year that a return to the Moon may be in the works, but considering the source does not necessarily engender confidence. Besides the uncertainty of a highly polarized election, money does not seem to be eagerly offered to make hardware out of paper dreams. At least as preliminary support for renewed flights to the Moon, renewed robot exploration may well happen even if the manned flights do not follow. In the mean time Apollo 11 still stirs proud memories in those old enough to remember. The Moon eternally beckons to us as a place we have been, and of a time when we dared to accomplish something great during a brief interval when we could afford to. Perhaps we will again soon. Hope is something to cling to when it is offered and this year we have at least a little of that thrown our way.
It is sad to contemplate the wasted opportunities of the decades since we threw away our ability to visit other worlds. Looking at the 'mirror timeline' centered on 1969 assists in grasping what an interval of time has been wasted. 34 years have passed since Apollo 11, and 34 years before then brings us into the world of the American 'Dust Bowl' climatic catastrophe, the enactment of the U.S. Social Security Act, the introduction of the Douglas DC-3 airplane passenger service, and the marketing of the first modern plastic based color film, Kodachrome. Little by little the world of 1969 becomes as extinct and abstract as the era opposite Apollo 11 on the time line. One day the very thought of being able to go to the moon will seem as fantastic as the legends woven into religion, with tales of miracles which no longer happen.
Another year passes since we could go to the Moon, soon it will be a third of a century since Apollo 11. The belief that Apollo was a hoax has gained ground since last year. As long as the Moon is beyond our reach, legends and lies will continue to be poured into the mix of the circulating ideas. Once the last of us who remember people landing on the Moon are dead, the disbelievers will gain ground significently. When real events are in short supply, legend will move in to take their place. The night of the anniversary I gazed at the Moon with the satisfaction of knowing it was once possible to travel there, and that I will die knowing of an age when miracles like that were possible.
The Moon still lives in our minds, but it has also passed into the realm of dreams as much as if it had never happened. There is increasing exposure since last year to the idea that Apollo was a hoax! A science television program on as I write this is spending time to refute this 'conspiracy theory', followed by a segment on the problems museums are having with preserving deteriorating Apollo spacesuits. It seems increasingly unlikely that human footprints will ever be made on the Moon again. This is subject to things changing, of course, but such changes seem beyond the horizon on a continuing basis.
Yet again we pass a yearly landmark many of us remember, the mission of Apollo 11. Every year the wonder returns, the Moon in the sky reminds us of what once was, and the fact that we were once capable of great things brings inner comfort for a moment. I continue to await any sign of some change in the current restriction of humanity to Low Earth Orbit.
When I was a child there were still veterans of the Civil War alive. Hopefully some of us who remember will still be lucid enough to appreciate the second generation HDTV views some future visitors to other worlds will beam back to Earth. While waiting for that day I will always carry with me the transcendent feeling of looking up at the Moon and knowing there were people up there at that moment, and then walking indoors and seeing them live on TV! In time such things we remember may seem miraculous, but such are the hazards of events passing from living memory. May the Moon never pass from living memory.