July 20, 2009
It is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Mission. We are also approaching the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival. I was in Viet Nam at the time of both. I did not attend Woodstock; those that did, for the most part, did not attend Viet Nam.
I do not recall exactly how I’d gotten word of the successful landing on the moon. Somebody told me, and that somebody may have heard it on AFVN Radio or scuttlebutt or the hierarchical command grapevine. I do recall gazing up at the moon that night and wondering about where the astronauts were exactly.
Ever after, the moon landing became a benchmark for all manner of things; for example: “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they find a cure for the common cold?” “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they end poverty?” and the ubiquitous question: “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they put an end to war?”
There is a persistent theory among a number of people that the moon landing was a fake. That the moon landing (s) were a mass media fraud perpetrated on a gullible but global audience. “To what purpose?” one may well ask. Why would they need to fake it?
In Viet Nam I had occasion to fly a few night counter-mortar missions in Charlie model helicopters. We spent hours flying at 3000 feet in a chill, black sky; circling about on the lookout for mortar tubes and muzzle flashes and passing the time watching illumination flares rising, popping and drifting on their parachutes far below. All this with the doors off. If you have the imagination for it: it would be akin to being in a very tall building’s elevator but without any walls to block the view; or to float in mid-air seated on a very tiny metallic platform. To accurately depict the whole experience I must add that flying this way is extremely windy and noisy, so much so that we needed to wear helmets with built-in microphones and headphones, just to communicate with each other from only a few feet away.
For the record: Given the extent of my knowledge and hands-on experience in the many wonders of aviation technology, I have no reason to doubt the technology involved in successfully landing a man on the moon.
Those who attended Woodstock, if they have any doubts at all regarding the moon landings, would, I think, tend to be more skeptical than I.
As for Apollo 11 being a benchmark for life’s problems:
The Common Cold is an immunological response of the body to protect against invasive substances: e. g. bacteria, viruses, dust, mold, etc.. It is a defense mechanism, something you really shouldn’t want to fix.
All children are born utterly selfish. So long as you have selfish people, you will have inequity. So long as you have inequity you will have both rich and poor. So long as you have children you will have poverty. There is no viable and especially, technological answer, for this conundrum.
Peace is internal, it is not something you can fight for with helicopters and rockets, regardless of size. Peace is not something obtained: you must determinedly live it.
The Woodstock generation, for all of their protestation, failed utterly to find peace.
Apollo 11 was the culmination of The Space Race. It was more than just a technological or Cold War race for military air supremacy or imperial dominance. (The Arms Race is, historically, on-going; hysterically producing such awful things as the now nightmarish nuclear annihilation threat for hapless future generations of children to inherit and enjoy.)
The Race to the Moon was a race to plant a flag. Both Cosmonauts and Astronauts lost their lives in the effort. The historically specious argument is that, if a man plants a flag in an unoccupied territory, the territory is his to own.
As the argument goes: merely striking (the moon) with a projectile from a distance is insufficient to validate the claim of ownership. Like a children’s game, there are rules. One must be physically present in order to plant the flag.
As the argument goes: The United States of America thus owns The Moon.
Like little children fighting over a chair:
“I was here first.”
(If there is anything of commercial value up there, you’ll be the last to know.)
I say it is an historically specious argument because all claims of land ownership are, at very bottom, logically invalid. The Earth (and The Moon) existed long before man, and long before man even invented the notion of ownership. Before man was, the Earth was; and before the Earth was, was The Creator. The Creator is the original owner of the land, and like the astronauts of Apollo 11, we are all just visitors here.
For the Woodstock Generation to live in peace, we must give up racing to, claiming, and fighting to the death for ownership of anything.