Monday, July 20, 2009

The First Men in the Moon

Today is the 40th anniversary of the momentous day when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon. Even though the Apollo program was more an exercise in nationalist flag planting than a genuine quest for scientific knowledge, its importance can't be ignored. Even today only a handful of people have set foot on another world.

We've always dreamed of going to the moon. Lucian, of Samosata (Λουκιανός, ο Σαμοσατεύς) was one of the first to write of it in his comic tales. Others followed suit, one of the most famous obviously being Jules Verne, whose books De la Terre à la Lune (1865) and Autour de la lune (1870) were almost prophetic in their depiction of a launch from Florida. A few year later H. G. Wells tackled the subject with typical verve, producing the memorable novel The First Men in the Moon, which I plan to re-read in celebration.

The BBC is giving lots of attention to the anniversary. It has a page devoted to the historic moon landing and its legacy with lots of great content. Plus the BBC Radio 4 show Book at Bedtime is going to feature an abridged reading of Wells' The First Men in the Moon over the next few nights. Sounds like something to give an ear to.

And even as I remember the tremendous achievements of the past I won't forget the 13 astronauts in orbit right now, who are braving the rigors of space in order to pave the way for future voyages.

Update: NASA is not unexpectedly Celebrating the 'Giant Leap' with numerous special features, including an interactive Apollo 11 Landing Site. Well worth checking out.

Update update: The New York Times has a special section devoted to the Apollo 11 anniversary with lots of great articles.

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