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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.