I remember looking up at the moon a number of times over the next two and a half years while one of the 6 crews were in the LM on the Moon and thinking to myself: "Wow, there are actually people up there on that moon!" The evening of July 20 was one of those times. The moonwalk was going to be shown live on TV and luckily, my folks had no problem letting this 8 year old stay up late to watch it. Preparation by the astronauts took longer than expected, so the TV news people had to fill the air time as we listened to the banter between the astronauts preparing to open the hatch and the ground controllers. They showed a demonstration of what Neil Armstrong would be doing shortly with a suited actor climbing down the ladder of a mockup. They had interviews with scientists and astronauts and others. Finally, we could hear that they had the hatch open and that Armstrong was about to climb out of the Lunar Module. Still, there were no TV images from the Moon. Finally, there appeared a fuzzy image that looked to be upside down. Was it fuzzy because it was a live transmission from the Moon or was it fuzzy because we were watching it on an old black and white Zenith TV? The image flipped rightside up now and there appeared to be some boots in the upper part of the screen along with a crooked horizen and what must be the ladder on the left side of the screen. Slowly and deliberately, there was the fuzzy image of Neil Armstrong working his way down the ladder. It was almost surreal. Armstrong jumps down off the ladder and moments later we hear his imortal words: "That's one small step for (a) Man.... One giant leap for Mankind." I was elated. But at 8 years old, perspective is not among ones strengths. How could I understand the importance of the moment? I certainly did not understand all the challenges and difficulties involved in flying to the moon. It was all like magic and it was happening in front of my eyes. Little did I realise the influence that one day in my life would have on the rest of my days. As I watched the astronauts walking around on the moon, I could only imagine what I might be doing in the future. At that moment, I wanted with all my heart to be an astronaut someday myself. Walking around on other worlds was cool and I wanted to do it too! Well, that has not changed. But as an 8 year old, I fully expected our space program to continue to do exciting things and flying to the Moon and Mars were talked about as expectations for the coming years. Going to the planets was no longer science fiction or fantasy -we were doing it, right there on TV! Looking back on that time, it is disappointing indeed to see just how little we have done in space. There was so much potential then and so many things yet to do in space.
It is with some of the same childlike fascination that I look back on Apollo and what was done 35 years ago today. It is awe inspiring that we were able to build spacecraft and rockets to send humans to the Moon & not just once - 6 times. Today I have the advantage of knowledge. I have not only studied science and how one might explore a place like the Moon, but I have studied the details of Apollo. The procedures and equipment used while walking on the Moon. The details of the spacecraft that took people to the Moon. The science returned by experiments placed on the Moon. The thousands of photographs taken by astronauts on the Moon. The video from the TV cameras carried to the Moon. The study of the moonrocks returned from the Moon. Taken as a whole, they tell a complex and detailed story of how 12 men landed and walked on the Moon. All this information is incredibly self consistent. Studying the scientific return of Apollo has led to many interesting discoveries about the origin and evolution of the Earth and the solar system as a whole. Theories about the origin of the Earth-Moon system and the solar system are based on the evidence returned by Apollo. I have no doubt that Apollo flew to the Moon and landed 12 men there because the extraordinary evidence tells us the details. Scientific investigation of that evidence and using that evidence would quickly show any inconsistencies. There are none. I am as certain that we went to the Moon as described as I am that gravity exists. That the Earth I live on orbits the Sun. That the sun orbits the Galaxy. The evidence is truely extraordinary.
It is amazing to me that there are those who believe with all their hearts that it was all a fake. I pity those who are unable or unwilling to look at what we did with Apollo with the same kind of awe that I am able to enjoy when looking at the details of Apollo.
Carl Sagan once said: "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence." The claim that Apollo sent Men to the Moon is indeed extraordinary, but the evidence to support the claim is up to the challenge and is extraordinary. The claims by a few that we did not land on the moon and that there was some huge conspiracy is also extraordinary, however, their evidence does not stand up to simple scrutiny and is trivial to debunk. Apollo went to the Moon and if you refuse to believe it, that is your own problem. Get over it. We went to the Moon and we will go back eventually.