On October 4th 1957, the Russians launched a 184lb metal sphere called Sputnik 1 into Earth orbit and the Space Race was under way. On April 12th 1961, the Russians upped the stakes by launching Major Yuri Gagarin into Earth orbit. Three months earlier US President JF Kennedy had made his inaugural speech, part of which handed out an olive branch to adversary nations amongst which where the words "Together let us explore the stars," but it seemed that the Russians were well on the way on their own. On May 25th 1961, Kennedy made a speech to Congress in which he made a request for a national debate on proposals to go to the Moon. Eight years one month and twenty-five days later I was sat in front of a black and white TV set by my parents and told that it was "history happening". The date was July 20th 1969, and I was three years two months and two days old. I can still remember watching those grainy black and white images on the TV and I watched all the subsequent Apollo missions whilst telling myself that I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.
So, did man really land on the Moon? For me it was real and I watched it happen. I have read various conspiracy theories regarding the Moon landings but I don't feel that any of them hold water. I can't believe that the Russians would have let the USA make hay with something this big if it was faked, and the Russians would certainly have known if it was faked. I also find it hard to believe that Congress would have funded the World's biggest hoax and then managed to hide the truth all this time. Somebody would have crawled out from under the carpet by now and spilled the beans. As it was, Congress withdrew the funding for the last three flights because it could no longer afford it with the war in Vietnam still dragging on.
Anybody who has any doubts about the validity of the Moon landings should read MOONDUST by Andrew Smith ((ISBN 0-7475-6369-1). Smith set out to interview the nine remaining astronauts who had walked on the Moon, to find out how it had changed their lives and ours in the years that had followed. I have to say that I found it a very enlightening read and well worth the endorsements that ti carried.
The question for me isn't "Did Man Really Land On The Moon?" but "Where did the technology come from in such a short space of time?"
An astronaut hasn't been out of Earth orbit for 35 years and for 26 of those years NASA has relied on its dwindling shuttle fleet to reach orbit. Even the Russians are still using 1970's technology to fly to the ISS. How can technology have leapt forward so fast over such a small period of time and then stood still for so long? The shuttle is due for retirement in 2010 and NASA is going to be left without a crew launch vehicle of any kind until Constellation gets off the ground, allegedly sometime during 2014. It will then be another six years before NASA believe that they will be ready to go back to the Moon. I wonder if they will aim for a Moon landing on July 20th 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing in the Sea of Tranquility; maybe even the same landing site? How's that for a conspiracy theory?
The Apollo 11 landing site on the Sea Of Tranquility should be preserved as an international monument to our first landfall on our way to the stars. All of us take small steps in our respective lives but the small steps taken by 12 men over a period of three years on behalf of mankind seem to have reached a dead end for the time being. It's time that we took the next few steps... Mars is waiting.