Monday 20 July 2009

Magnificent Desolation - The Moon Landing

In 1979, ten years after the event, I was eating vegetarian sausages salvaged from a supermarket waste bin at a campfire on the Californian Coast.

One of the two other people sitting with me looked up at the almost full moon and bemoaned the fact that her soil was no longer virgin, the dust touched and trampled as it had been by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s boots a decade earlier.

The third person – Red – smiled and asked if we really believed that, and went on to explain that the event had been staged in a TV studio.

In 1969 I was 14, the age of my daughter today, and delivering newspapers to the houses on the morning after the landing. The people of the suburbs where I lived were still awake, having watched for the first time an all night BBC broadcast. The astronauts had landed at 3.56 am and were getting ready to part. We were all dreaming of walking there too.

It never occurred to me then that it could have been faked and today I don’t think it matters.

The moon is still beautiful.

Three years later, a warm winter night in Madrid, I am surprised to see a man in a small square with a telescope pointing heavenward. He is happy to let anyone who cares to, to look and for the first time I saw the craters and seas that make her surface.

In 1989, twenty years after the event, in London I saw an advert in Loot magazine -an astronomer was selling his equipment and impulsively I drove across town and then hauled it to the roof and for an hour lost myself in her beauty and stillness.

I started to drift, felt nausea and was startled from this drunkenness by the magnified sight of a jumbo jet landing at Heathrow, crossing the lens between me and the Moon.

Today 40 years after the event she still looks brand new.

There are many things about the Moon Landings that time has rendered even more amazing, one among these caught my attention this morning.

Apparently Buzz Aldrin celebrated a Lunar Holy Communion. It was a private affair as NASA was legally obliged to keep it so. The Chalice that he used now resides in the Webster Presbyterian Church Texas. Every Sunday before July 20 they celebrate communion with the Chalice that went to the Moon.

I’m not sure exactly when the landings took place, do we measure such an event by NASA time or BBC time, the day would be different, or more appropriately Moon time?

Because amidst all the public celebration targeted for today we shouldn’t forget to celebrate the true marvel at the centre of it all.

The Moon.


Anne Hodgson said...

Hello Chris,

My mother - a German immigrant to the US - sang me:
"Der Mond ist aufgegangen,
die g├╝ldnen Sternlein prangen,
am Himmel hell und klar"
- that beautiful Mathias Claudius song.
So for me the moon, with its cool light inviting introspection and a search for deeper truths, will always be a "he".

Happy moon landing day :)

popps said...

Hello Anne.
Interesting. In French she is a she, and i was thinking of the song "The sun has got it's hat on..."
And the Walrus and the Carpenter.
I think Neil and Buzz are fairly silent on the subject.
What is the American perspective?