Tag Archives: apollo

To the moon, and beyond

People of my age remember watching men walk on the moon, on our television sets, when we were young kids.

I have no doubt, it shaped us profoundly and irrefutably. Practically, in the way we viewed the world & humanity, and spiritually, in how we saw our fragile breed, riding this blue marble.

in the 40 years since that landing, I probably thought about being an astronaut a million times, I’m sure. I’m not alone among the people who abandoned sporting and historical heroes to replace them with the riders of rockets to the unknown; with heroes of the future; with the scientists and engineers who made things happen, as much as with the rocket pilots themselves.

Millions of people will write about what the anniversary of the moon landing means to them. I won’t add to it. Instead I’d just like to say “thank you”.

I’d like to thank the millions of people who made it happen, from the astronauts themselves, to the parents of the factory worker who tightened any one of the thousands of bolts on the LEM, or approved the velcro strips as they slid past them on the quality assurance table. They’re all in there. They were all important.

The Apollo missions marked the age I was a child of, Aquarius, and influenced my era in ways we have yet to fully explore. And fortunately, we’re still learning from it, and still pushing the boundaries.

And to those who think it didn’t happen? Sorry. I don’t believe you.

Visionary A C Clarke passes into the void

I am of the age where the Apollo project, and humanity’s expedition to the moon, holds a great and lasting fascination that has not diminished and forms a strong basis for my core being. My view of technology, humanity, the planet and the universe are all strongly influenced by those live TV transmissions in 1969, in the hushed and darkened classroom of my youth. I still read much of what the few remaining astronauts of the Apollo missions have to say of their experiences and it has affected their view of humanity and themselves deeply.

There are many men like me; interested in science at that exploratory boyish age in the 60’s, where fascination became reality and we watched enthralled as men walked on the moon. Everyone was talking about what was out there, in space, and what a quantum leap it was for humanity to walk on another heavenly body.

The previous year, 1968 saw the release of a film which changed our view of the universe, technology and humanity in a massive way as well. I’m speaking of 2001:A Space Odyssey, Directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by both Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke. Long before CGI in films, and in an genre which had wilder and cheaper sets and bug-eyed aliens wrestling with heroes to dramatic music, 2001 showed me what space could really be.

Clarke defined a great deal of what the world is today. From describing what was required from satellites in order to be used for modern and earth-spanning telecommunications to being prescient in what he would be seeing in his lifetime and in our hands (the internet, mobile phones, high-speed data, nuclear-powered spacecraft, PDAs, ubiquitous computing, video-conferencing) at a time when William Shatner was the “real” spaceman and aliens were shorthand for communists.

Clarke wrote some amazing books, visually stunning and incredibly descriptive and above all written within the bounds of known scientific precepts. If he had the temerity to imagine into the future or onto other planets, he at least based it on known facts and provable suppositions. He rarely made something up that did not feel completely real and intelligent and made all of it utterly compelling.

In his 90th birthday recollections Clarke says some compelling and prescient things, about technology and its’ responsibility to improve not exploit the planet, but my favourite is his sign-off, in which he humbly quotes Kipling:

“If I have given you delight with all that I have done, let me lie quiet in that night which shall be yours anon. And for the little, little span the dead are borne in mind, seek not to question other than the books I leave behind.”

Thank you, Arthur; I have been delighted.