Tag: Apollo

Do Something Appropriate


The world of Apollo 8 was in some ways very different than the world in which we find ourselves today; in others, not so much.  In 1968 there was war, same as today.  Then there was civil strife, same as today.  But the men of Apollo were forged in the crucible of the Depression and World War.  They were daring and brilliant.  They went about their astronaut business with drive and returned from space to pick up where they left off.

I know there are many here who have far more knowledge of the space program than I do. I have the love of Apollo forged by new color televisions and Major Matt Mason, Mattel’s Man in Space. Yet the tiny fraternity of men who traveled to the moon is getting smaller. Last week, Ken Mattingly died. Yesterday, Frank Borman died.

Aldrin on Stage, Heinlein on Film


Sunday, June 5, 2005. My wife reminded me that there was a two o’clock show of Destination Moon at the Aero Theater, an old-time neighborhood movie theater with an interesting history. This film rarely plays anywhere but on video; its last L.A. screening had been during our overnight movie marathon in 1995. We didn’t expect much bustle on a Sunday afternoon. To our surprise, there was a crowd spilling out into the street. Then I read that Destination Moon would be preceded by a question-and-answer session with Buzz Aldrin.

That’s right, Edwin Aldrin Jr., General, USAF (Ret.)—the lunar module pilot who made the first moon landing. The moment was certainly unreal.  This movie theater, the Aero, was built during the war specifically for 24-hour, three-shift use of aircraft assembly workers, hence its name.  Buzz Aldrin flew in World War II, and was still alive to stand in front of us.  Then he went on to defy death in Korea.  Then he went into space with Gemini.  Then…

Our Moon: Cars and Color TV


Isn’t it remarkable that the later Moon visits–when we were getting better and better at it–are almost forgotten now?  Simply being on the Moon seemed a miracle, but it can’t be denied that the first Apollo landing missions looked very similar: a hazy fixed-camera view of the lander and two phantom figures in slow motion, grey against grey. Most people remember only “One small step…” and the ghostly image of the US flag.

Apollo 15 was going to be different, and the big audience came back for it. It had a much better TV camera, and in color. Most of all, it had a car on the Moon. As most of the world marveled or jeered, what could possibly be more American than that? To some, the lunar rovers were a flashy and extravagant gesture, a show-off stunt for television. The whole space program was a stunt in many people’s eyes by then. I resented those skeptics, who gradually got the better of the political argument. But even Apollo fans like me overlooked and underestimated what it accomplished.

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Here’s an updated version of a piece I originally published on Election Day. Since Presidents set policy directions for agencies like NASA, and Congress is tasked with funding these institutions, citizens should be informed about these programs and some history behind previous space policy decisions. Read on below for a brief, non-partisan look at Presidential policies […]

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For the space flight fans out there, let me point you to a fantastic archive of the Apollo missions: Apollo In Real Time.  It is a record of the Mission Control audio, video, photos, and experiments during the Apollo flights, delivered to you in “real time” as you listen.  You can select a time you […]

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I caught part of the CBS Evening News last night. They were broadcasting from the Kennedy Space Center in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch. Now I have an itchy remote finger, so I admittedly only saw bits and pieces of the news. From what I did see I do have […]

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Ice After Fire: The Outpost Tavern


In the 1960s there was no hotter job in Texas than that of astronaut. If you were one of that elite crew, you were conquering space, getting there by riding a column of fire. With a job that hot, you needed to cool down after the workday was over. Fortunately, the astronauts were based in Houston and did most of their work there. They could take advantage of a Texas tradition: the ice house.

For those of you from more benighted regions, a Texas ice house is not just a place where you buy blocks of ice or which manufactures or stores ice. That is what folks mean when they talk about an ice house in some parts of America.

Maybe that is all they once were in Texas way back when artificial ice was new. But it did not take long before Texas ice houses began selling stuff that was better on ice, milk, and eggs, sure. But more importantly, beer. Lots of beer. On ice. In a Texas summer. (In Houston summer starts mid-April and ends two weeks before Halloween.)

Quote of the Day: The Apollo Program


“Apollo was like a command economy. And a command economy is like being on steroids – your muscles get big but your testicles shrink, so it’s ultimately not sustainable.” – Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit)

Forty-nine years ago today, Apollo 11 began its trip to the Moon. It was my 14th birthday, and the liftoff was the biggest, best candle any 14-year-old could have. It was not the first time men had visited the Moon. Two previous Apollo missions had carried six other men to lunar orbit. It would be the mission where humans would walk for the first time on another planetary body.

Four years later I was sitting before a board of officers deciding whether to admit me to the ROTC program where I was going to college. One question asked was “Where do you see yourself in 25 years?”

RIP John Young


John Young, one of NASA’s most remarkable astronauts, died Friday, January 5.

Young was the only man to fly on four different spacecraft (Gemini, Apollo, Lunar Module, and Shuttle) and the first NASA astronaut to fly in space six times. He flew on the first Gemini mission, landed on the Moon, commanded the first Shuttle mission, and the first Shuttle Spacelab mission.

I remember him from my early days in the Shuttle program. Hard to believe he is gone. But he got his three-score years and ten with an extra 17 on top of that. Certainly a life well-lived.

JFK’s Deadline for Apollo


One of the most famous speeches given by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was at Rice University on September 12, 1962, where he said “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” How was such a deadline determined given the enormous complexity of such an endeavor?



shutterstock_83323393With yesterday’s 45th anniversary of the first lunar landing, there’s been an unusual amount of space coverage and commentary in the media. I’ve tried to do my share. As I noted on Friday, I had a piece over at USA Today, declaring that it’s time to end the Apollo Cargo Cult:

After over four decades, it is time to stop awaiting a repeat of a glorious but limited and improbable past. We must, finally, return to and embrace the true future, in which the solar system and ultimately the universe is opened up to all, with affordable, competing commercial transportation systems, in the way that only Americans can do it.

For those who want to understand the nature of the debate, this YouTube video still holds up all too well: