Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Postcards From the Edge

Forty years ago today, do you remember what was happening?

I sure do. It was the famous Apollo 8 mission; the first time humans circled the moon. That was the mission that showed the earth rising over the moon’s surface while the astronauts read the first ten verses of Genesis as it was broadcast back to Earth on Christmas day.
Remember that?

I was only eight years old, but I was already a little space-nerd. The sixties was a great time for a kid to wallow in space-nerdity. The Soviet space program continually beat the Americans to the punch with the first space flight, the first human in space, the first human orbiting the earth, and the first space-walk.

And then there was Apollo 8 and that iconic photo of the earth from the moon.

You’ll often read that that photograph was the first time that the earth was seen from the moon and that this was the first time humans had seen the dark side of the lunar surface. But it wasn’t. The Russians had already seen that sight over a month before the Apollo 8 astronauts were circling the moon.

On November 14, 1968, an unmanned Russian spacecraft transmitted this photograph after orbiting the moon, though the Soviet government seldom published it.

As a matter of fact, the Soviets had been orbiting the moon and photographing the dark side as early as 1965 with three other similar missions the following year. On February 3, 1966, Luna 9 had even landed on the moon and transmitted photographs of the lunar surface to earth. Luna 10 achieved another moon landing later that year.

I think this was typical of the differences between the American and Soviet space missions. The Americans, true to form, were in it for the sensationalism, the fame and notoriety.

Meanwhile the Soviets were quietly sending scads of scientific missions to the moon, to Venus and even two of them that orbited the sun – well before that iconic flight of Apollo 8, forty years ago today.

I wish I’d known about all those Soviet missions back when I was a kid in the 60s. That would have been so incredibly interesting and entertaining.

Instead, the idiotic Cold War kept so many of us little space-nerds in the dark.

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At 12:46 AM , Blogger John said...

Hey there Darlin', how are ya?! If'in' my tax dollars is goin' for rockets to the moon, then I damn well want some aliens, flyin' saucers or UFO's to show for it...

Huggs, etc...

At 10:53 AM , Blogger Br. Jonathan said...

Bunny! Good to hear from you.
You've got a good point. I want to see aliens and flying saucers too.


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