RASC Victoria Centre members who were old enough to have watched original television broadcasts and read the newspapers of the day, featuring the momentous landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 have some vivid memories to share. Some of their memorabilia is also fun to look at after 50 years has passed!
As new residents of La Serena, Chile since September, 1968 (where Jim was a young staff astronomer at the new Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory), we were in Santiago the weekend of 20 July 1969. At that time TV was not yet available in La Serena, but fortunately it was in Santiago. Because the astronauts were supposed to sleep after their late-afternoon landing, we went off for an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
Throughout our meal our young waitress was listening to a transistor radio held tightly to her ear. Mid-way through our dinner she approached to ask (in Spanish), “You are Americans, right?” “Yes, we are; why?” “Your countrymen are walking on the Moon!”
After hurriedly paying the bill, we rushed the five blocks back to our hotel, where we found all staff and guests crowded into the common room where the hotel’s single black-and-white TV was showing the grainy, but awe-inspiring, images of the first Moon walk. A voice solemnly intoned (in Spanish), “This broadcast is coming to you from the Moon.” Energy and wonder were intense in that room, indelibly burning this transformative event into our memories.
[The front pages of two Chilean newspapers from 21 July 1969 which we’ve saved for 50 years: El Mercurio (a conservative paper still publishing) and El Siglo (reflecting views of the Communist Party and which ceased publication after the 1973 military coup), both of which marvelled at the significance of this happening.]
I have searched everywhere for the one photo I took on July 20, 1969. I do remember it was a shot of the Magnavox TV console in Aunt Mickey and Uncle Bill’s den in their house in Vancouver. A black and white image showed Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon. A very exciting time for us – and the rest of my family on the Island !!
I did find another photo that I took several years ago, though. On a camping and hiking trip through Western Australia seven years go, we went through a town called Carnarvon, home to one of the radio dishes that was instrumental in guiding Apollo 11 on the way to the Moon.
I’m so glad I had the camera ready !! Getting ready to celebrate 50 years of the Moon landing….
Sherry Buttnor – Reflections from a simple mind
Here we are on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the time when humans first set foot on another world.
I remember it well; watching with spellbound attention the ethereal images on a B&W TV, breathtakingly captioned with LIVE FROM THE SURFACE OF THE MOON. I was captivated. My dad was ex-RCAF. We spend many happy Sundays at YYC watching airplanes; I inherited a love of flight from him (either by intent, or osmosis) and spaceflight was a logical progression. Even I could understand that at the tender young age of 10.
The seed was planted.
A year or two after Apollo 11, I went on a field trip one Saturday evening to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory here in Victoria. Back then, you could look through an eyepiece in the mighty Plaskett telescope, and the view through it was glorious.
The seed had germinated.
That year I asked Santa for a telescope of my own, and he obliged with a little refractor, of which I was very fond, and used often for the following decade.
The seed had sprouted.
In the early 80s, it all changed. Fuelled by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and self-study via the Open Learning Institute’s Project Universe and early computer programs on my Commodore 64, I built bigger and better telescopes, I immersed myself in the universe with a love I carry today, and the seed was in full blossom.
And here we are, on the cusp of one of the main events that started my 50-year adventure in astronomy.
Tomorrow evening, as a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, I’m privileged to be able to go up to the Observatory, where I had my first look, and show our visitors their first look through a telescope as together we recall one of the great technological moments in human history, 50 years ago.
What a journey it has been! For me, and for all of us on the Good Earth – at home.
I remember watching the first steps taken on the Moon on our black and white TV as well. I think my first live TV broadcast was of Ripple Rock being blown in 1958, but the Apollo 11 landing in 1969 stands out in my mind, because I had a passion for astronomy and space exploration that was ignited about six years previous by my grade six teacher, Malcolm Riley.
Like so many of my Baby Boomer generation, we expected that 50 years later we would be well on our way to exploring the solar system with humans aboard spacecraft. That expectation has not been met. It is with considerable dismay that I look back on the Apollo missions as the last which saw humankind travel through deep space. How much longer will we be stuck in low-Earth orbit before we venture into the rest of the Universe?
A Study in Sepia
The fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing was cast by most people as a celebration. But I couldn’t help but feel sadness.
Fifty years after what was a milestone, a triumph of skill and determination, a masterful accomplishment, and we as a culture seem to be walking backwards.
I watched the moment of landing on the proverbial tiny black and white TV. My mother and sister were mildly interested and watching with me, my father was outside. I was filled with excitement and trepidation, building until “Tranquility Base here…” and I leaped up to run and tell my father.
He was outside, talking with a neighbour. When I rushed up and burst out that they had landed on the Moon, he barely nodded, ans seemed almost amused at my excitement. He kept on talking with the neighbour, a man he only knew slightly, and approved of less.
Still excited, I ran back to the television. My sister and mother had seen what they wanted to see and had left. I watched the broadcast to the end by myself.
In the half century since, we seem to have retreated from ambition and energy. Careful critical thought has given way to superficial emotion, popularity, and empty show. Great discoveries and advances have been made, but most of the population don’t care. Their attention is caught by shiny devices, exciting entertainment, and flashy celebrities.
So this anniversary, as great as it is, feels sad to me. A fin de siecle reminder of what we once dared attempt. In my imagination, the crowds leave the party. Go home, and look for the next distraction. The history, the future that might have been, and the sadness of the loss will wash over them without notice, leaving nothing.
In the summer of 1969, I was an 8-year old at Camp White Pine, in Haliburton Ontario. There were never any televisions at camp, except on July 20, 1969, when they placed two B&W televisions on ladders in the Rec Room, and a few hundred campers squished on the floor to watch the moon landing.
All my friends wanted to be astronauts. But astronauts had all trained as air force pilots, and that didn’t suit me. I remember thinking that the people in mission control, and the scientists who were telling the astronauts what to do were the people to follow.
I decided that I would become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know. In the end, I became a geologist, but astronomy, especially concerning the moon, has always been my passion. I am particularly proud to be the first member of the Victoria Centre to obtain the RASC “Explore the Moon” observing certificate.
Dr. Chris Gainor
Chris is the President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and is a prolific writer focusing on space exploration. Rather than quoting his many articles and books on space missions as they relate to Canada, we direct you to his online blog (with a pre-defined “Apollo 11” search term). Chris is a most passionate space geek, and works hard at meeting all the pioneers in the space industry. He is contracted to write the history of the Hubble Space telescope, and his book Arrows to the Moon is a fascinating read of how mankind traveled to the Moon, thanks to a good dose of Canadian ingenuity.
This documentary covers Canada’s contribution to Apollo, which is covered in greater depth in Chris’ book ‘Arrows to the Moon.’
July 20th marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Due to media attention a desire to take a closer look at the Moon may grow as this date approaches. Unfortunately the Moon will not rise until 11:14PM on the anniversary of the landing. As a result the International Astronomical Union is organizing a global lunar observing event on July 12th called “On the Moon Again”. Between 8PM and 11PM on Friday July 12th, members of the Victoria Centre of RASC will set up telescopes in Oak Bay at the Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park. If weather permits they will be happy to share views of the Moon with you.
Victoria Centre telescopes will also be in position at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory every Saturday evening in July from 7:15PM to 10:45PM for weekly Star Parties. These events, co-hosted with The Friends of the DAO, will include the following Moon related lectures:
July 6th: The Voyages of Apollo by Dr. Philip Stooke July 13th: “Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects” by Randy Enkin July 20th: The Apollo Moon Walk by Dr. Chris Gainor July 27th: Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite Apollo and Space Suite IV
In addition to the above programs these Star Parties also include tours of the historic Plaskett Telescope, the Centre of the Universe Museum and Planetarium shows. Obtain free tickets to the Saturday Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
During the week of the July 20th the Friends of the DAO will hold the following additional lectures on Apollo at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, starting shortly after 7:00 PM.:
Tuesday July 16: Canada’s Contributions to Apollo by Dr. Chris Gainor
Wednesday July 17: Apollo in the Age of Aquarius by Dr. Dennis Crabtree
Thursday July 18: The Voyages of Apollo by Dr. Philip Stooke
The Centre of the Universe at the DAO will also be open to the public from 10 AM to 3 PM on Tuesday July 16 through Friday July 19.
Here is more detailed information of the scheduled Saturday Star Party lectures at the DAO:
July 6th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm The Voyages of Apollo Dr. Philip Stooke
Abstract: A summary of the Apollo Program including its origins, steps along the way to the Moon, the choice of landing sites and a pictorial look at each mission.
Bio: Phil Stooke is a planetary scientist and cartographer with a PhD from UVic. He taught in the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in London, Ontario until his recent retirement. He has published The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and similar books on Mars, and is currently revising his lunar atlas.
July 13th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm “Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects” Randy Enkin
Abstract: In 1969, at age 8, the Apollo missions motivated me to become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know. In this presentation, I will present my 30-year time series of lunar phase observations, and my lunar sketches from the past year which earned me the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada “Explore the Moon Observing Certificate” (https://www.rasc.ca/observing/explore-the-moon-observing-certificate). And you will be introduced to “Enkin’s Daily Moon” where images of the moon explore “the passage of time, illumination, the feminine, and world unity”. (https://www.facebook.com/EnkinsDailyMoon/)
Bio: Randy Enkin did not become a professional astronomer. He is a Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, working on earthquakes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
July 20th 2019 – 7:45pm to 10:45pm The Apollo 11 Moonwalk with Dr. Chris Gainor
Abstract: This presentation will show the entire Apollo 11 moonwalk as it was televised on the evening of July 20, 1969, along with descriptive slides. Chris Gainor will discuss the flight of Apollo 11, the symbolic aspects of the first walk on another celestial body, and the scientific work carried out by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The presentation will begin shortly before 8 p.m., just as it did in real time in 1969, and will continue for the two hours and 40 minutes of this historic event.
Bio: Chris Gainor is a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books and is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
July 27th 2019 – 8:30pm to 10:45pm Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite IV and Space Suite Apollo
Producers – Imagine Create Media Space Suite IV A series of 10 short films that explore the infinite wonders of our universe and our interactions with the cosmos. Space Suite Apollo Trace the history of NASA’s Lunar missions from Mercury to Gemini, to the Apollo Missions that ultimately landed a man on the moon. Set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Space Suite Apollo gives viewers an unflinching look at the raw footage that continues to capture the world’s imagination.
Tuesday July 14 is going to be an historic day. The New Horizons spacecraft will make its long-awaited flyby of Pluto, obtaining the first closeup photos and data from this mysterious world.
In honour of this event, I am arranging an informal and fun event at Pluto’s Restaurant (“The Hottest Food from the Coolest Planet”) in Victoria, BC, Canada at 6 p.m. on July 14. This will be a dinner and celebration, including an update with the latest news from Pluto.
If you are interested in taking part, please let me know, so I can give the restaurant people an estimate of how many people they can expect. Once there, you can order off the menu and pay for your meal as usual.
About the time we sit down for dinner, the first transmission from New Horizons after its flyby is due to arrive on Earth. I am also trying to arrange for an expert speaker to give us a very brief update on the findings from New Horizons.
This flyby will be an historic event, no matter how you classify Pluto. This will be the last first-time flyby of what some call a “classical planet” and the first of one of the many smaller planets in the Kuiper Belt. Interestingly, the first flyby of a planet (other than Earth) was Mariner IV’s flyby of Mars on July 14, 1965, exactly fifty years before the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.