Monday, 15 July 2019
Walking On The Moon
This week we celebrate (rightly) the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the moon - a momentous event in the history of humankind. Not only did it generate the largest TV audience to date, it created a historic moment of planetary self-awareness, a global polaroid, as we saw ourselves collectively, for the time en masse, as a single species on a rare and precious planet blessed with the optimum conditions for living in a cold, inhospitable cosmos.
Although sadly this giant leap for mankind did little to remedy geopolitical conflict, or environmental policies, the impact of this (and the Space Race) on popular culture was enormous - spawning countless books, comics, TV shows, films, pop songs, toys, games, fashion ... My brother and I grew up with the 'Space Bug', hoovering up anything we could get our grubby mits on. Sci-Fi on TV was limited (Star Trek; Dr Who; Terry Nation's and Gerry Anderson's output was about it on 3 channels) but watched avidly. When classic SF movies were repeated, it warranted staying up late. When the first Star Wars came out everything changed - and the local cinema became our place of pilgrimate and worship. Anything with Special FX was watched, however execrable. Starburst was the go-to magazine for any teasers, reviews, features or photos of screen fantastika.
And then there were the toys - Corgi, Lego, and Airfix. I remember my brother making a model of the Apollo 11 spacecraft one summer, which he proudly put on his window-sill. Unfortunately, he left the window open and NASA's flagship took flight - a short, abortive one.
Rivetted, we watched all the early Space Shuttle flights from the late Seventies, when it seemed we were living in a science fictional age - and Dan Dare's dream (the Pilot of the Future, whose adventures were gloriously brought to life in The Eagle comic, and later, 2000AD) was coming true before our eyes.
The sky was not the limit.
In those heady days before the Challenger shuttle disaster all things seemed possible.
And 50 years on it is good to remember that optimism - and what can be achieved when humanity works together. Space exploration is a truly transnational endeavour, as the International Space Station has proven.
Only together will we reach the stars.
The Apollo 11 moonlanding is brilliantly brought to life on this website: