Moon landings

Exciting times, July 1969.

Apollo 11 was more than four hours into its mission and orbiting Earth at a distance of 11,753 nautical miles at this time, on this date, 40 years ago.

David shared his memories of the historic occasion with the Guardian last week; the eerie experimental piece featured in the video below is ‘Moonhead’, the jam that complimented the BBC’s live coverage.

Forget the wonders of space exploration, isn’t it amazing to think of television producers letting a band jam so freely on live TV?

Anyway, I’d love to hear your memories. Where were you, what were you doing, and, if you’re too young to have experienced the exciting event for yourself, what do you make of it all with the benefit of hindsight?

Not wishing to take anything away from the achievements of all involved, and knowing that no discussion of the lunar landings would be complete without the obligatory conspiracy theory, it’s only fair to ask: Do you believe that the three Apollo 11 astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – landed on the Moon on the afternoon of 20 July?

This is a fascinating website faithfully recreating the events in real-time. As well as live transmission and mission status updates, you can download or embed your very own mission tracker and follow developments via RSS feed or Twitter – I know that I’ll be spending many of the 98.5 hours before landing time tuned in to the comings and goings from Houston.

77 comments

  1. Taki

    Hi all,

    I was almost three then, so no real memories… Still an incredible achievement!!! Just imagine yourself sitting on the top of these giant fuel tanks, that will explode under control (most times) in a few seconds to shoot you in space…

    Well, I can’t imagine how those guys did not returned completely gaga and it’s quite unfair to accuse them as liars, mostly by people that have no idea of physics… Yes, they were there as I was at work today, only it was more riskier for them than for me. 😉

    Regards
    Taki

    • Pink Joe

      It wasn’t long afterward that a small cafe was built right there on the surface of the Moon. It had to close because business was so slow. The food was great, but it had no atmosphere.

  2. Matt

    A phenomenal achievement and proof that man can do almost anything when we work together.

    I watched with my family in our basement and at 11, I just thought it was cool, now some 40 years later I can truly appreciate all the intricate attention to details as well as the remarkable amount of luck required in pulling any of these wondrous explorations off…

    • ash

      I can truly appreciate all the intricate attention to details.

      I can’t imagine how they did all that with such primitive computing power. Looking back, it’s even more remarkable now.

      I was out last week on the evening of a (nearly?) full moon. The moon was low and huge. I thought, this would be a good night to go there, it’s nice and close and big enough so we wouldn’t miss the target. :))

      ash X

  3. Andrew

    I was a wee tyke when Apollo XI landed on the moon but I do remember that my older brother positioned tape recorders in front of the TV so that he could document it all on tape for himself. I do remember the grainy black and white images transmitted on the TV.

    The space story that I find absolutely amazing is the Apollo XIII mission. They almost didn’t make it back but with team work and ingenuity they found solutions.

    Hmmmm…. seems to me that next month is the 40th anniversary of another major music event. Some 3 day festival. I smell a blog entry.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

    • judy

      Oh Yes.

      I certainly hope so. One of my favorites. Thanks for mentioning it.

      Hope FEd will jump on this one. Thanks again.

  4. jan

    Wow! That was sooo long ago. I hardly recall what I did this morning! :))

    But, yes, I certainly do recall (unfortunately, have a clearer recollection of the 3 assassinations… Kennedy’s and MLK and 9/11 than the lunar landing). I have to admid that I was skeptical while watching it on TV as it was such an amazing feat.

    I do believe that they did land on the moon. The miracle to me was that they made it back to earth. The technical side of figuring the trajectory, the timing everything!

    Jan

    PS: FE’D and Michele: thank you for the birthday wishes, and my apologies to all of those who I missed this year. My belated wishes to you. :(

  5. judy

    Fantastic!

    I was 10 years old at the time. Totally amazed that the space men did not float away. I wondered how they could go to the bathroom if they had to. Wanted to be there and bounce around like they were. It all looked like too much fun.

    I remember older folks saying things like “what’s next?”, “don’t they have anything better to do with our tax dollars?”, “like this is going to improve anything”.

    Ground Control was always breaking in with commentary or explaining what our astronauts were doing, always with excitement in their voices. It was all so new and exciting. What would be next in our country if we could achieve this great feat?

    Later the country came out with moon boots for the winter and space food sticks (a vitamin enriched tootsie roll, if you will). Never got the moon boots but sure envied those that did. The space food sticks were good.

    Those are some of my memories, what can I say, I was ten.

    Enjoyed the Pink Floyd clip. Reminded of the Umma Gumma era.

    Thank you so much for this blast from the past. Left me with goose flesh. It’s fun to go back once in awhile. Thanks again.

    Love to the world.

  6. Timothy Thomas

    I was so young but I remember my whole family making making an event around this date. It was huge.

    I look forward to Performing in London for the first time in my musical carer this fall of 09 and recording at Abbey Road. I’ve waited a lifetime for this moment, my “Moment of Truth”.

    See ya on the road in the UK.

  7. Gareth

    I was -8 years old at the time, so no memories for me. Shame, cos it was such a magnificent achievement.

    I’ve become a bit of a space enthusiast (but not TOO over the top) and rarely miss a shuttle launch (on NASA TV – unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get to Florida to see one live, and with only a year left, it’s probably something I’ll never see live!) :(

    If there’s one thing I hate, it’s moon hoax conspiracy theorists. Their arguments are usually ludicrously flimsy, or have been totally destroyed thousands of times, yet they keep coming back. It annoys me because they deny what was probably mankind’s greatest achievement so far.

    The best response to one of these conspiracy theorists was Buzz Aldrin’s response to Bart Sibrel – you can find it quite easily on YouTube… Good on yer, Buzz! :))

    • FEd

      :)) I wondered who’d be the first.

      Michael Collins might not have walked on the Moon, but he was close enough to it to count, surely.

      I think a certain Jethro Tull song might spring to a few minds over this anniversary…

    • Alessandra

      “I’m with you LEM
      Though it’s a shame that it had to be you.
      The mother ship is just a blip
      From your trip made for two.
      I’m with you boys, so please employ just a little extra care.
      It’s on my mind I’m left behind
      When I should have been there.
      Walking with you.”

      😀

  8. jan

    Don’t know how many go back and look at old postings. I was out of town and went back to catch up a bit. I added some comments to old topics.

    I did, also, add two piano songs that some of you may enjoy if you check them out. Just wanted to mention them as they are beautiful and in my opinion worth the time to listen.

    Also, to comment that I enjoyed some that were posted that I had not viewed previously.

    Jan

  9. nick from the lovely South

    I remember the imagines on a black and white screen with a television so deep as the rocket that shot the Apollo to the moon.

    Hope you all have a great weekend,
    Nick from the lovely South of the Moon.

  10. Julie Davies

    At the tender age of 4 I remember Daddy watching the moon landing on the television. I can’t remember where Mama was. Daddy did take a 8mm film from the television of the men walking on the moon.

    I absolutely adore the Floyd’s soundtrack entitled ‘Moonhead’. It’s those ethereal vocals of David’s coupled with Richard’s keyboards that really do jettison one’s mind into the cosmos.

    I hope it might be released some day.

  11. VeronicaUK

    Do you believe that the three Apollo 11 astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – landed on the Moon on the afternoon of 20 July?

    No, I believe it was a hoax, granted it was a very good one but a hoax nonetheless.

    • Rudders - Toronto

      Veronica…

      Until recently I was of the same mind… with all of the photographic anomalies, multiple shadows with only one light source, areas being lit when they should have been in compete darkness etc., but I have changed my opinion.

      I haven’t read the book completely yet but it’s very interesting:

      Dark Mission – Richard Hoagland

      NASA’s attempt to make everyone think there was a conspiracy theory that the Moon Landings were a hoax is quite clever. I think what is being hidden is what is actually up there…

    • tim_c

      Ummmm Rudders…

      – Mobile phones (forget the crappy cameras) and the internet are phenomenal inventions
      – Personal computers regardless of keyboards
      – Digital Media of all sorts – music, cameras
      – Refinements in most conventional technologies
      – Medical advances across the board
      – Progress in genetic science

      What were you wanting, time travel?

  12. Mike W.

    I was just a little over one year old when it happened (and, yes, I believe it actually happened).

    I’m not sure I can even imagine how it must have felt to watch such a monumental achievement. Since then, we’ve all become so jaded when it comes to technological breakthroughs – we aren’t amazed anymore, we just expect it.

    • FEd

      That’s so true, Mike.

      I can’t imagine how it must have felt to witness something so mind-blowing, either.

    • Rudders - Toronto

      The question is, what technological breakthroughs have we had since the moon landings?

      1. Cell Phones with a crappy camera… I’m struggling to find a valid use for the camera besides drunken louts taking stupid pictures and videos.

      2. The Internet… easy access to porn and of course YouTube (see point 1).

      3. The Hubble Telescope, which didn’t work properly because one team worked in metric and another in imperial… Hmmm, picture’s a bit blurry?

      4. Computers with QWERTY keyboards! QWERTY keyboards were originally designed to slow the user down so that there would be less clashes between typebars on a Typewriter. Did someone forget that computers are a tad quicker than typewriters?

      5. The Petaflop barrier got broken… huh? 8|

      6. Nanoelectronics… wow! Now kids’ toys work better than ever .

      Seems to me that since the Moon Landings we’ve not really kept the pace going… 😕

  13. ash

    I remember watching this on the TV with my family. I remember where I was standing in our front room at the moment they touched down. :)

    It was stunning. A huge achievement and we watched nothing else and talked about nothing else for days. My friends and I talked about it, my family’s friends talked about it.

    I confess, I don’t know if I remember the music on the day. I can’t tell either if my memories of various TV presentations are from the day or recordings/replays that I’ve seen again since.

    Conspiracy? I believe we sent men to the moon.

    A band jamming so freely on live TV? Trusted to do the job professionally? Yes, it is amazing Fed. (Remember what Jimi Hendrix did on the Lulu show? They pulled him off the air for launching into what he wanted to do.)

    The producers must have had excellent, far(out) sightedness and knew good spacey music when they heard it. :)) The Floyd were obviously well respected.

    ash X

  14. ash

    Joke, an old one… for the sisterhood.

    If they can send one man to the moon, why can’t they send them all there?

    ash :))

    I’m sorry, I’m sorry guys, I didn’t mean it.

  15. NewYorkDan

    I was three years-old at the time, and although my father tells me I was watching the moon landings as they happened, I have absolutely no memory of doing so.

    I do not think there is any conspiracy involved, I think we actually did land on the moon and plant the flag there. To fake it would be such a coordinated effort among so many people, it would not have been possible to keep the secret. And even if they could have pulled it off, I think that someone would have come clean about it by now. The landings are real.

    I was on YouTube shortly after reading the Gilmour interview last week (because of the posting here about it) and I found Floyd’s Moonhead. It is kinda eerie and obviously totally improvised. I think it shows great courage from the BBC to allow a band to jam out during such a high-profile live event. I cannot imagine it happening today! Okay, MAYBE someone safe like Stevie Wonder. But an experimental rock band known for its weird musicality? Wouldn’t EVER happen!

  16. Pete - Coventry

    Do you believe that the three Apollo 11 astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – landed on the Moon on the afternoon of 20 July?

    No, cos only 2 of them did. 😉

    I remember well being huddled round our black and white telly. We had not progressed to a colour one.

    My mum didn’t believe it at all. She thought it was all happening in a desert somewhere. Strangely a movie was released some years after with that as the storyline.

    • NewYorkDan

      That movie was called “Capricorn One.” It had a long list of celebrity actors including OJ Simpson, Elliot Gould, Karen Black, Telly Savalas, and a young Sam Waterston (pre- “Law and order”).

    • Matt Johns

      That’d be Capricorn One, the 1978 movie with James Brolin, OJ Simpson, and Elliott Gould, where they fake a mission to Mars… good film, worth watching.

      And FEd, thanks for letting us know about that website – I’m now sitting here listening to static as it seems the astronauts are all asleep. I know I’m gonna be on the site a lot, like you.

      Have a good weekend, all.

  17. nick from the lovely South

    P.S. “Chicago / Change the World” is a great song, lovely tune. Please donate!

    Have a great trip!

  18. Alessandra

    I’ve no personal memories of moon landing, because I was not born, yet.

    I know my parents were not at home that day, but they could watch the event on a public TV screen, with many other people. My mother has always described it like an exciting moment, while my father has always been sceptical about it and he still doubts, today, it actually happened.

    My opinion is that, probably, it actually happened, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if one day we’ll discover it was only fiction. Mass media makes us believe what they want everyday, so it wouldn’t be so strange in the end.

    Anyway, maybe it’s a stupid thought, but I don’t like very much the idea of someone walking on the moon. I think it just wastes all its beauty.

    I know that, if it happened, it was surely a great conquest from a scientific point of view, but maybe I’d prefer to discover it was only fiction.

    To be sincere, I have also some doubts about space explorations in general, since, most of time, they are a big waste of money which could be used much better for the Earth’s needs, but I guess this is another subject, so I’ll stop here my criticism. 😛

  19. Julie Davies

    Do you believe that the three Apollo 11 astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins – landed on the Moon on the afternoon of 20 July?

    Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt.

    I do wonder sometimes after such a “giant leap” why we haven’t really gone much further than that. Okay, I know we have the space shuttle and telescopes and that, but it seems that we haven’t really done much since the moon landings.

    I love space technology.

  20. Michèle

    I like this piece of music, it adds a nice, cool and ethereal atmosphere to the video. Reminds me of ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’.

    I think it was a great technological feat. And I think they only wanted to achieve the goal of landing a man on the Moon in 1969.

    But the US, Russia, China, Japan, India, etc. are now competing and have plans to explore the moon (or even Mars) and exploit its mineral resources (such as, for example, helium 3 to fuel nuclear power plants), and that scares me.

    I read this and that.

    I hope WE won’t destroy the Moon in the same way WE destroyed the Earth.

    Michèle

    • Michèle

      Yes, Alessandra, thank you.

      Would you believe me if I told you that I missed you all?

      Oh, it’s not completely true… 😛

  21. Günter

    I was 21 then and about to move to London. I watched the landing on the moon on Austrian TV.

    Later, all I remember was a shop on Trafalgar Square, displaying the moonlanding as a model in their window.

    Wow, that’s 40 years back?

  22. Julie Davies

    Every time I get into space discussions or even think about our universe, questions like this always pop into my head.

    Perhaps this would be a good topic for the day.

  23. Andrew

    Check this out.

    And this is also a good story that gives some perspective from some of the folks involved in this historic event.

    Isn’t it amazing how 40 years ago we were mesmerized by an event such as landing on the moon yet today we are mesmerized by the death of Michael Jackson?

    Yes, both involved a moonwalk but something just doesn’t feel right about that.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  24. Beppo the Mime

    I was 4 years old at the time, running in and out of the house. Every time I came in my father would “SHUSH” me. I could never figure out why. He had all his reel to reel equipment set up in front of the TV, and his 8mm Kodak film camera at the ready. He was eagerly recording the goings on that day.

    I’m going to have to give him a call and reminisce a bit about the day.

    Darren

    • Gareth

      Politics. Simple as that. It costs a ridiculous amount of money, and there hasn’t been the competition. America only did it because Russia threatened to do it first. Once they won the space race, there was no need to go back there.

      Let’s not forget that Apollo 11 was watched by a significant proportion of people on the planet, but by 1972 with Apollo 17, people were BORED of it!!! The last three missions were scrubbed because the public didn’t want to pay for it anymore.

      Now that China are gearing up for a visit there by the end of next decade, the USA are suddenly interested again.

      BTW, it won’t convince anyone who truly believes the landings were hoaxed, but NASA’s Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter (LRO) has photographed five of the six landing sites, showing the LM, and in the case of the Apollo 14 site, the astronaut’s footprints in the dust and scientific instruments. Worth a look.

  25. Mark

    Hi,

    I remember the Sunday evening/Monday morning really well. To be watching such a historic event and to get the added bonus of a live performance of a new Floyd track was just incredible. I’d just seen the guys live for the first time a couple of weeks previously, so I was really excited to see and hear them on such a momentous night.

    Great memories!

  26. judy

    Dear FEd,

    Hope you are having a great day.

    Did you happen to check out blog #3 on this page? Is “hmm” something we can be looking forward to?

    Thanks for your time.

  27. Hydrea

    Hi, FEd.

    Oh, unfortunately I didn’t see the moon landing, because I was born in 1974. 😮

    However, I’m not sure that landing on the Moon had been in 1969.

    I might be wrong but 1969, I know, has been a big political game during Cold War: USA vs USSR. And USA found the “victory.”

    Maybe, The “true” Moon landing has been in the early 70s. What do you think about this? 8)

    P. S. I’m very sad for Gary. I hope Amnesty International supports Gary McKinnon and his Family. It’s a shameful story.

    Bye,
    Hydrea

  28. Rudders - Toronto

    Useless piece of info…

    Neil Armstrong messed up his speech as he stepped down the ladder.

    He said, “One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

    What he should have said is, “One small step for A Man, one giant leap for Mankind.”

    • Dr Phang

      That was caused by a glitch in the audio transmission… He didn’t forget the “A”. Neil didn’t make mistakes.

      Buzz was filling his UCD (Urine Collection Device) when he was just about to take his first step on the lunar surface.

      And for all the “sceptics”… Study the design of the A7L spacesuit. It’s a masterpiece of engineering. It alone should eliminate any doubt… 😉

  29. Patricia

    The Apollo missions were a very American experience that started with John Kennedy speaking about his goal for space and continued after his death. Does anyone know what is going on in space now?

    The Space Shuttle Endeavour just linked to the International Space Station and went aboard this afternoon. There are 13 astronauts in total on board now.

    This is a good site to see it as well as the history of the Apollo missions.

    Patricia

  30. tim_c

    I was 4 and a half at the time so no clear memories. I do remember some launches but I would think they were subsequent Apollo missions, although something about James Burke always makes me feel a bit nostalgic.

    Kennedy assassination apart (there’s only so much smoke you can get coming off that damn grassy knoll without fire) I think most conspiracy theories are pretty cheap.

    I’ve never bothered researching the moon one and frankly we hear so little of it that I suspect it’s not one of the better ones, but it’s always easy posing unanswerable questions and stacking up the “evidence” in a big one-sided pile.

    Of course if anyone cares to outline the theory, it’ll save me wading off into geek land to find it…

  31. piergiorgio

    Man on the moon in 1969? It’s a joke, come on.

    Do you really believe that? I don’t.

    Too many factors conspire against that fact. Why no one ever succeeded or wanted to go back again? 8)

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  33. JT

    I think it’s funny when people point to the moon landing as a great achievement. So many people live in very desperate conditions on this planet – often conditions not of their own making. NASA is a political-symbolic whose got the bigger weenie program.

    Get healthcare for the kids in Palestine: That’s an achievement.

  34. mr_z

    Although I believe the landing did occur, I find it quite ironic that NASA reportedly lost (or misplaced?) the original footage… I had a chuckle. 😀

    Mankind is doing things far beyond moon landings now in terms of sophisticated applied science.

  35. James

    We had a resort in Minnesota at the time, and we put a TV out in the yard and all of the guests in our cabins came up and watched the moon landing. I was 14.

    I remember it was sunny, I was drinking a can of Fresca and we all marvelled at how the world was changing. One of the older guests told me, “you are watching history being made, young man!”

    Indeed I was.

  36. Wyatt

    What a remarkable achievement… I hope my generation can rise to the challenge and accomplish something equally spectacular. To Mars, perhaps?

    And I can’t think of a more fitting soundtrack to the awesome isolation of space… great band, great clip!

  37. Tom Byars

    I remember being hauled out of bed in my jammies (I was just nine!) and watched grainy black and white footage of real spacemen that night.

    Was it for real? Of course it was. Cost many lives and many dollars to get there! Just a disappointment NASA didn’t go back sooner, still that might change with Helium 3 eh?

    Just hope the lyrics by Tasmin Archer in Sleeping Satellite comes true!!!

  38. Stephen Barnhart

    I was 9 years old, and I was caught up in it like every kid my age was… or so I thought, until I read some of these posts.

    Before Apollo 11, they had the flight that circled the moon… we had a TV brought to school by my third grade teacher and watched every second of it in class.

    I had these action figures of the sixties called “Major Matt Mason” that were astronauts, and had all these cool moon crawler vehicles, and flight packs. You could order a model of the lunar lander for a penny glued to a mail in card from TV guide, and estis model rockets offered a 4 engine Saturn Five Rocket. One of the breakfast cereals offered reproduction space patch stickers, and you could get actual eight by ten glossy prints from Nasa of the lunar photos at the grocery store.

    My brother and I built a fort in the back yard and had a poster from national geogrphic of the solar system….it was our secret place to hide our “Popular Science” magazines. I remember seeing who could stand in a bucket of ice the longest, or who could stand in the street the longest bare foot (Phoenix 120 degrees)… a small test to becoming an astronaut after all.

    That was the only “craze” I ever really took part in, and I still own every patch from the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo programs today.

    I also have a signed copy of Gene Kranz’s book “Failure Is Not an Option” that my mother got from a seminar she went to with him, he was in charge at Mission Control during the Apollo missions.

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  41. Fat Chants

    Hm. After all the inner space exploration Pink Floyd did, all the subtle references to plant shamanism, Israel Regardie’s book about hashish, soundtrack to an anti-heroin film where LSD is the only thing that helps, and mastery of the psychedelic mathematical language that pervades the music of a small handful of brilliant people such as Monk, Sun Ra, and themselves… after alllllll of that, having been the gushing fountain of most serious, unpretentious ‘tripping music’ for teenagers to grow up to in headphones.

    We’re talking about Pink Floyd and the moon landing?

    Apparently landing alllll the way up on the moon does not do much to raise one’s consciousness or morality to any higher standard than that of furry animals who burrow alllll the way underground, SO…

    Gilmour was right when he wrote, “the Last Sunlight Disappears”.

  42. Lauraa x

    I wasn’t even born then, I’m only 15 years old. 😀

    But I have seen bits and pieces of Armstrong walking on the moon, and I find it really amazing!

  43. Michèle

    “British scientist claims he coined Neil Armstrong’s moon landing quote” (from Twitter)

    Indeed, it would have been great fun if Neil Armstrong’s first words on the Moon would have been: “Holy chicken s**t, look at all that f***ing dust”. :))

    Well, all those liars (on Earth), even among scientists, what a shame! 😉

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  45. Robb Williams

    I was 11 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon and I remember the sense of excitement and anticipation which accompanied the days immediately before. My friends and I still had a couple of hot debates to be resolved – was the moon really made of cheese and were there moon men living in the craters? 😀

    I missed the actual landing because it happened in the early hours of the morning UK time, but we got let out of school early so that we could see the replay on TV. I remember we had the best shepherd’s pie I’ve ever tasted for lunch that day – don’t ask me why that sticks in my mind but the moon and shepherd’s pie will always hold an association. That evening I looked up at the moon and thought,”Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are bouncing around up there”.

    Wonderful memories of a wondrous era where everything seemed possible and there was still so much more to discover.

  46. Low Cloud

    A lesser-known fact is that the US did manage to build a small restaurant on the Moon five years later having to abandon the idea after a rather short run. Turns out the food was great , but there was no atmosphere.

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  48. Glenn Moses

    I was 4 years old. I remember watching the landing on a black and white TV in the living room of the little house that we lived in at the time in Cedarhurst, New York. I can still remember the footage of the leg of Eagle coming down on the surface of the moon, it made a deep impression. I had my face close up to the television, because I wanted to get inside of the picture on the screen. I can remember the smell of the warm electronics inside the T.V. set. My parents had the lights out for viewing the landing, but up close in front of the set, I remember what the green rug looked like in the glow of the television. I hadn’t thought about it in a while, but that night made a NASA geek out of me for life.

    Thanks for asking about it.

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