As usual, Boston.com’s The Big Picture has put together Remembering Apollo 11 for the occasion: a remarkable photographic retrospective. My favourites are the ever-famous ‘Earthrise’ image (see below for more on the wording):
And this beautiful portrait of a beautiful young Neil Armstrong:
But, as usual, it’s the highly-specialised, sometimes elegant, often eccentric extra-terrestrial lexicon (with cutely self-explanatory acronyms) that tugs at my heartstrings.
- Mare Tranquillitatus / Sea of Tranquility: A large, relatively blank basaltic plain, onto which the Apollo 8 lander set its foily feet.
- Sabine Crater: Found in the Sea of Tranquility (see above). Named after astronomer, ornithologist and explorer Edward Sabine.
- Pre-Nectarian: A lunar geologic period (not that bit of summer just before the stone fruit glut)
- Translunar Coast: the trip from Earth to Moon (“coast” as in “coasting”, not seashore). A whimsical name for what is no doubt an incredible journey.
And the cutely obvious:
- ALOTS: Airborne Lightweight Optical Tracking System
- Earthrise: Only On The Moon. From Earth, we can watch the moon rise above the horizon. On the Moon, it’s t’other way around. Simple.
“The Earthrise photograph was not on the mission schedule and was taken in a moment of pure serendipity [cute phrase]…As Apollo 8 emerged from the far side of its fourth orbit, crew commander Frank Borman rolled the spacecraft so as to position its antennas [sic. I know: I'd use "antennae" too...] for radio contact with mission control. Looking to the lunar horizon for reference he exclaimed: “Oh my God, look at that picture over there! Here’s the Earth coming up!”…The image shows our entire world as a small and blue and very finite globe, without our nearest celestial neighbour a desolate presence in the foreground.”
– ‘Genesis: The Story of Apollo’, The Sciences 1998, via abc.net.au
- Late Heavy Bombardment: The era during which frequent meteor impacts left the moon with its pock-marked complexion.
And, to finish, an iota of luminous trivia for us all: the reason the moon glows so is because almost half of all moondust is made of tiny spherical glass particles, which reflect dazzling sunlight in our general direction (much like those reflective glass bead road markings… but, er, prettier).
And on that note, Goodnight Moon!
* I have no feminist or post-feminist qualms referring to Armstrong, Aldrin & co as such: I can’t think of anything more terrifying than space travel, let alone pioneering space travel.
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All photos: Remembering Apollo 11, Boston.com The Big Picture