Man on the Moon

Thats How it Felt to Walk on the Moon - Alan BeanI’m going to hear Alan Bean talk.

Alan Bean is one of the 12 men who have walked on the moon. Only nine of them are still alive.

I was looking on-line for an exhibition which I’d heard mentioned on the radio and couldn’t find it; instead I found that Alan Bean is talking to our local Astronomical Society in a school hall in a medium sized local town. I rang up and – yes – they still had tickets.

I am going to be in the same room as a man who has walked on the moon.

The moon landings are part of who I am and how I think – my mother made me watch them on television and then took me outside and pointed to the sky. “Look” she said, “That is where they are – so very far away.” She fell silent for a second. “I hope they are all right up there”, she added quietly. Lovell, Swigert and Haise of course, very nearly weren’t all right.

Bean walked on the moon for two days in 1969. He was 37 at the time. He was deeply affected by the experience and has spent many of the intervening 38 years creating paintings in which he strives to convey both something of the experience and meaning of being in space. The original paintings include grains of moon dust from his mission badges and are textured using his rock hammer.

When I heard I’d got a ticket to go and see him, I had trouble breathing. I have found it hard to concentrate all afternoon with the giddy excitement of it all.

The moon-walkers were two in a billion, and there are only nine of them left. One day fairly soon there will be one, and then there will be none.

They may be the only members our species to walk on another world; they may be the only creatures in the history of our planet to do so.

To be in the same room as one is a privilege beyond compare.

8 responses to “Man on the Moon

  1. Hello Aphra,

    Just passing by….

    How I envy you – meeting a moon man. I remember staring at the moon that night in 1969 so well too. In disbelief.

    These were the days I wanted to be an astronomer – but it never came to pass.

    Have a great night.

    The Witch Doctor.

  2. “Could you believe they put a man on the moon”

    Wow, I’m very envious of you getting that ticket Aphra.
    Although I’m too young to remember the moon landings, I do remember the excitement about the new way into space the shuttle was to be and also how that dream came crashing back to earth a few years later.

    A number of years ago I managed to see the exhibition “Full Moon” by Micheal Light at the Hayward Gallery in London. He managed to get access to the NASA photo archive and selected to whole load of photos from the lunar missions to be reprinted. Everything from the launch, through pictures on the moon to splashdown at the end. I guess that’s the nearest I’ll get to being on the moon, staring intently at a panoramic photo 12 feet across.

    “spaceman, I always wanted to go into space man”

  3. Reading Andrew Chaikin’s account of the Moon landings, Bean comes across as a very sensitive person, a man in a different league to the high-adrenaline macho types that populated many of the earlier space missions. For anyone to climb into those capsules, and land such a complex (yet paper-thin) craft on another planetary body would have required nerves of steel. You will be in the presence of a quite extraordinary individual.

  4. Before the last Apollo astronaut dies there will be people on the moon again. I’m confident of that. I’m also pretty confident that the next words spoken from the surface will be in Mandarin…

  5. We’ve become so blase about the fact that man has walked on the moon. That is sad, reflecting a loss of the awe and wonder that the ancients would have felt. But also a testament to the adaptability of humans – and we need to be, given the pace of change over the past 100 years. I hope it’s a great evening.

  6. Thank you Ana – it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

    Phil – I’d have loved to see that exhibition. I’m so bad at keeping track of things I missed it though.

    I’ve just lent my copy of Chaikin to the one I went with, Woodpigeon, but I spent the last two evenings reading Smith’s account of meeting Bean in Moon Dust, and Bean was the one I wanted the most to see.

    SoRB, you may well be right, and it would be fine by me. Bean pointed out that if China take it seriously then the USA will too, but if they don’t then in his opinion it would be another 50 years or so before we’re back. He is convinced we will be back though.

    Iota, I do wonder if one of the things that make us so blase is the whole SF film genre. I wonder how many people think that Star Trek and Deep Space 9 are fiction in the way that Will and Grace is fiction, rather than realising that the world they inhabit, (of flight faster than the speed of light), is almost certainly impossible. SF is good in many ways because it opens up our minds, but I wonder if all that happens is that the wind blows through instead of thoughts.

    Thanks all for reading and for commenting.


  7. A few years ago a couple of younger male friends took me to the National Air ans Space Museum in Washington. I was utterly surprised to see ho small and fragile the space going vehicles actually were.

    Noway anyone should get me into a narrow box of strenghtened tinfoil and throw me out to a cold radiation filled environment without oxygen and shelter. It made me wonder about the men that actually had spent time inside those boxes. Daredevils? Dreams of immortality? Curiosness? “to boldly go where no one went before”?

    I enjoyed the giftshop more, and spent time and money there buying xmas pressies for the hatchlings, while my male company walked around drooling over planes and rockets.

  8. Dragonqueen, you remind me of a comment about jet fighters – that the pilots don’t get into those planes them so much as wear them.

    Tom Wolfe puts forward some explanations of why the astronauts did it, but I think he romanticises the whole thing (though he’d deny that). The more interesting book is Moon Dust.

    Thanks for dropping by.


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