July 1, 2011

Happy Friday. Gray here after a variable day yesterday of everything from rain to sun with clear skies. Relative Humidity holding at 65 percent.

We watched  a good documentary on the Apollo moon missions called In the Shadow of the Moon. I remember to this day where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the moon’s surface. From Widipedia—

In the Shadow of the Moon follows the manned missions to the Moon made by the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The documentary reviews both the footage and media available to the public at the time of the missions, as well as NASA films and materials which had not been opened in over 30 years. All of this has been sourced and remastered in HD by the stock footage company Footagevault. Augmenting the archival audio and video are contemporary interviews with some surviving Apollo era astronauts, including Al Bean, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt. The former astronauts have the only speaking roles in the movie, although occasional supplementary information is presented on screen with text and archival television footage presents the words of journalists such as Jules Bergman and Walter Cronkite. Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon, declined to participate, the only surviving moon walker to do so.

The documentary shares its name with a book by space historians Colin Burgess and Francis French, and both include many original interviews with Apollo lunar astronauts. The documentary offers a view of the Apollo program that is complementary to the book and is neither a source nor a tie-in.

Ten of the twenty-four astronauts who orbited, looped around, or landed on the Moon appear on camera. Six of the remaining fourteen astronauts who reached the vicinity of the Moon have died. The remaining eight were not featured in the film. All manned Apollo flights with the exception of Apollo 7, which was an earth-orbit shakedown mission, were represented in the film. The film is presented by Ron Howard, but there is no narration in the film.

The old NASA video is film, and some of it is surprisingly good. The credits state that there was no enhancement of the original film for the documentary. A couple of the astronauts who were interviewed (the first mission astronauts were all born in 1930) are interesting talkers, and the editing of the film keeps the talk and the film clips consistently interesting. Well worth watching. Note that the only women who appear in the film are wives and secretaries. This was the decade of Madmen. Tellingly, one of the astronauts says of his team, “There were no weak sisters in our group.” Still, this was an inspiring project that helped produce technology that we all now take for granted. One tense moment occurred when the first lunar landing module was about land on the moon’s surface, they got a computer error code: “12-02.” The MIT scientists who designed the computer (this is 1969) quickly told them that meant the amount of incoming data exceeded the computer’s capacity to process. LOL. Your PC is way more powerful than the one they were using. A fascinating video. For the whole family, though kids will probably think it is blasé, not comprehending the astonishingly rapid developments in technology of the last century. We got the DVD from Netflix.

Enjoy the Glorious Fourth.

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