Abyss & Apex : Third Quarter 2009: Forty Years

Forty Years

by Jude-Marie Green, Associate Editor

The moon is the first milestone on the road to the stars.–Arthur C. Clarke

Forty years ago Apollo 11 completed a successful voyage to the moon. Two of the astronauts descended to the lunar surface. On July 20, 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong screwed up the most famous space age line ever: “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

(He forgot the article “a,” which would have changed the meaning to one of humbleness for a single man’s efforts compared to what that effort accomplished for the human race. I understand. Public speaking makes me nervous, too.)

 

The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of Project Apollo and the third human voyage to the Moon or Moon orbit. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Mission Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Jr. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon, while Collins orbited above.–Wikipedia

During my childhood I spent summer vacations at my grandparents’ farm in Speedwell, Tennessee. The change from urban environment (Orange County, California) to deep in the heart of Appalachia (North East Tennessee) never disturbed me; I enjoyed the trees, the fireflies, and the blackberries growing wild everywhere. I never paid much attention to the night sky; the stars and the moon just were. As a child of “Star Trek” and “Lost In Space,” I got my astronomy from television.

And one sweltery summer forty years ago I got an eyeful of televised astronomy.

I spent a week glued to the television while I watched NASA’s Apollo mission coverage. My grandma, Maria, would change the channel during the afternoons so she could watch her stories (“soap operas,” which my memory gives me as crisper and more intense than reruns from that era show me as truth.) Otherwise, the television was mine. I napped on the sectional in my grandparents’ front room with the television blaring.

I don’t remember much about the coverage itself. My memory is augmented and probably polluted by NASA broadcasts in the ensuing decades. Right now, wechoosethemoon.org is showing the entire mission; users can choose which parts they want to view.

I remember jumping up and down on the sofa and yelling hurrahs when the lander touched down. I may have napped during the long deadly wait while the astronauts secured the lander and themselves for the first moonwalk. But then, Neil Armstrong hauled his white muffled box of a spacesuit out of the hatch and hopped down the ladder, setting a human foot on an alien world for the first time.

I was breathless. Would he die? Fly off into space? Meet friendly or not-so-friendly aliens?

Were the Soviets already there?

No wonder he misspoke his line. Every science fiction and fantasy author has discussed the moon. Our satellite is just there, day and night.

 

 

  • Jules Verne wrote his scientifiction, “De la Terre à la Lune” (From The Earth To The Moon) in 1865.
  • Tom Hanks produced a fantastic and inclusive nonfiction miniseries, “From The Earth To The Moon” in 1998.
  • Isaac Asimov wrote a comprehensive series detailing the names of the various moon phases: “The Moon,” 1967.
  • Werewolves live and their victims die by the moon.
    • Yes, there is a werewolves.com.
    • Harry Potter’s godfather is a werewolf.
    • Poul Anderson’s “Operation Chaos,” concerns a werewolf and his wife.
    • Lon Chaney’s “The Wolfman” scared me in all its cheesy black and white glory when I watched midnight showings.
  • Romantic poetry and moonmaidens and fantastical creatures galore compete with
  • Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” and H.G. Wells’ “The First Men In The Moon” and Robert Sawyer’s “The Eagle Has Landed.”

 

 

I could go on or I could point you to a listing of science fiction stories about the moon: biblioinfo.com.

Robert Browning said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” The moon has long been within our view. We’ve long reached for it, that exciter of our imaginations. For forty years now we’ve known the moon was within our grasp. Perhaps it’s time to go back.

Whether we (the United States of America, via NASA or one of our upcoming private space agencies) or others (European Space Agency, China’s National Space Administration, to name two possibles) continue to reach out, our writers and dreamers will continue to generate fiction that we will consume to feed our hunger for the moon.

 

For when I look at the moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.–David R. Scott, Commander Apollo 15, “National Geographic,” Volume 144, no. 3, September 1973.

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–Jude-Marie Green, Associate Editor


 

 


Jude-Marie Green’s fiction appears here and there, mostly in anthologies (Desolate Places, Visual Journeys, to name two) and online (Thaumatrope, Ideomancer, and soon in Defenestration).


 

 

Editorial © 2009 Jude-Marie Green. All other content copyright © 2009 Abyss & Apex Publishing. 





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