Fly Me to the Moon
By James Anthony
An astronaut ponders the meaning
giant golden vacuum cleaner on the moon
As a small schoolboy I will never forget the moment the class
was allowed to take a break and watch footage of the first
landing by mankind on the Moon.
It was the 20th of July, 1969, and from the Apollo 16 mission's
command ship Columbia, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended
on to the Moon's surface in the Eagle.
The Eagle landed in the Sea of Tranquility to the relieving
words from Armstrong of "Houston, Tranquility Base here.
The Eagle has landed," and after 20 minutes he went down
the ladder of the craft to where no human had gone before.
As his left foot touched the Moon's surface Armstrong's immortal
words were "That's one small step for man, but one giant
leap for mankind."
And how true.
It seemed a miracle when less than 70 years after the first
aeroplane was flown, mankind was able to fly a rocket into
space and deposit astronauts on the Moon.
For children of the 1960s and 1970s space flights to the
Moon were a wonderful realistic dream, then budget cuts forced
NASA's space programme to shelve it.
All up there have been six Moon landings and today children
will once again be able to have such dreams with an announcement
that US president George W. Bush wants to send a manned flight
to our nearest lump of galactic rock by 2020.
The aim is to send a four-person manned flight to the international
space station in a redesigned space shuttle. They will then
rendezvous with a separate flight carrying the crew's module.
That will link up with a heavy-lifting cargo rocket containing
the lunar landing module. The cargo ferry will contain a large
version of the current space shuttle's solid rocket boosters
and five main engines.
The first mission is set down to land the four astronauts
on the Moon by 2018. That advance party would stay for a week.
Now the cost of the programme is around US$100 billion and
in the wake of the New Orleans disaster and cost of the war
in Iraq much criticism has been aimed at Bush. The Katrina
hurricane also badly damaged NASA's bases in the south-east
of America and that will take some time - and more than US$1
billion to repair.
But Bush has even grander plans for space exploration and
wants to eventually have a mission to the red planet, Mars.
The new push for space has been made more difficult to sell
considering the problems caused by the ageing shuttle fleet
and the Challenger and Columbia tragedies where 14 astronauts
died on re-entry. Before any new attempts can be made at the
Moon, NASA will need to come up with a new space flight vehicle
that negates the difficulties that have plagued the shuttles.
But it will surely be another amazing event for the school
children of 2018.
- The three crew on the Apollo 1 mission died on January
27th 1967, when their capsule caught fire during a test
- Apollo 7 in 1968 had the first manned space launch and
live TV broadcast from a spacecraft.
- Apollo 8 conducted the first human orbit of the Moon.
- Apollo 9 tested the latest space suit during a space walk.
- Apollo 11 had first Moon landing.
- Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong becomes first man to walk on
- Second Moon landing on Apollo 12.
- Apollo 13 aborts mission but crew returns safely using
lunar module as emergency lifeboat.
- Alan Shephard - the first American in space - becomes
oldest man to walk on the Moon in 1971.
- First lunar sports event when Shephard hits two golf balls.
- Apollo 15 is the first mission to use the lunar rover.
- Speed record for lunar rover set by Apollo 16, it got
up to 17.7 kmh. Apollo 17 conducts last mission to the Moon.