Posts Tagged ‘Apollo’

Mission Control

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

The latest acquisition for my DVD library is a British-made documentary called “Mission Control.” Made by the same people that produced “The Last Man on the Moon,” it tells the story of the unsung heroes of America’s Apollo moon landing programme – the engineers, scientists and backroom boffins who made it all work, using archive footage cut with present day interviews. If you’ve seen the 1995 hit movie “Apollo 13,” you’ll recognise some of the names of the men remembering their roles, including Flight Director Gene Kranz, John Aaron and Sy Liebergot. Astronauts Jim Lovell, Charlie Duke and Gene Cernan also take part, while British audiences will be delighted to see several clips featuring James Burke, presenting the BBC coverage of the Apollo moon landings.

It has a special resonance for me, as my interest in spaceflight goes all the way back to 1957, when at the tender age of four I was taken into our back garden one night by my physicist father so we could see the bright light of Russia’s Sputnik 2 – the dawn of the space age – tracking across the night sky. I followed Apollo throughout my school years, and in 1972, my first solo trip abroad was to the USA to see the launch of Apollo 17, the last flight to the moon, remembered in this blog from eight years ago. The trip also included a visit to Houston in Texas, where I got to see Mission Control for real, and sit in the viewing room at the back of the nerve centre.

“Mission Control” covers the history of the space race, the tragedy of the Apollo 1 launchpad fire which defined the way the whole programme was subsequently run, the historic first landing on the moon, and the nerve-shredding moments and sheer hard work and tenacity that saved the crew of Apollo 13. Excellent viewing for space geeks. Available in Blu-ray or DVD.


Monday, July 20th, 2009

Buzz Aldrin next to "Eagle", the Apollo 11 Lunar Module

Today we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. Contrary to what they’ve been saying on the news, the anniversary of the first moonwalk doesn’t actually come till tomorrow, as for Britain it was in the early hours of the 21st July that Neil Armstrong made that “one small step for man”. I remember watching the grainy images on TV and I remember being utterly captivated by it.

As a teenager I’d followed all the Apollo missions, both those leading up to Apollo 11, and the ones that came after. I was so in awe of it that the first thing I did upon leaving school and getting a job was to borrow a large wodge of cash in order to fly to the USA to watch the launch of Apollo 17 from the Kennedy Space Center in December 1972. Seeing (and feeling) an Apollo Saturn 5 take to the skies at night remains one of the highlights of my life.

Of course there are some that think it was all a con, although I suspect that even now they will be coming up with feeble excuses upon seeing the first images of the Apollo landing sites which have just been sent back by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), sent to the moon to map the surface in high resolution and help choose future landing sites. They show the descent stages of the Apollo Lunar Modules, scientific instruments, and in one case, even picks out a line of footprints. Further images at much higher resolutions will show even greater detail.

There are plenty who wonder at the cost of going to the moon, although even in terms of spin-off developments, the benefits have been massive. But ultimately, whether on this planet or beyond, man was born to explore, and that’s something that cannot, and should not, be denied.