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Apollo 11 50th Anniversary (wikipedia.org)
135 points by SpaceInvader on July 16, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 42 comments

Just a reminder that in 40mins time the real time simulation will take off:


I'd seen the site before, but thanks for the timely reminder. I'm too young to have seen the real launch, but there's something special about being able to watch the launch on this site, time-shifted by 50 years. Thanks!

This is amazing, I'd vaguely heard of this but not visited before. What a resource!

If you missed the documentary "Apollo 11" in cinemas, you can watch "Moonwalk One" (1970) on youtube in its entirety at https://youtu.be/9GVpoSrqMMg

It features quite a few of the same scenes, alas in lower visual fidelity.


This film details the comprehensive coverage surrounding the July 1969 launch of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon. The film details activities of both the astronauts and mission control during pre-launch and launch sequences, daily activities aboard the spacecraft and the moonwalk, and provides a view of the historical and cultural events of the time. The footage includes clips from science fiction television shows such as "Flash Gordon" and "Buck Rogers," as well as a lengthy segment on American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard. The film also explores some of the critical preliminary stages of the Apollo program, including medical testing of the human body in space conditions, as well as the assembly and testing of space suits as worn by the astronauts.

ARC Identifier 1257628 / Local Identifier 255-HQ-199 National Archives and Records Administration Moonwalk One, ca. 1970

"Apollo 11" is available for purchase, both digitally and physically. It's one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, as it creates a narrative out of the footage without using any interviews or actual narration.

UK based people with a TV license can watch "8 days to the moon and back" on BBC iPlayer.

I've seen both Apollo 11 and 8 days to the moon and back, and while there are stylistic differences, the power is much the same.


Not so much an article about the 50th anniversary, but just the main article about Apollo 11.

If you are into space stuff, and haven't seen it yet, there were some pretty cool projects going on on Youtube in preparation for the 50th anniversary:

- CuriousMarc's restoration series of an actual ACG [0]

- Applied Science made a replica DSKY electroluminescent glass panel display [1]

- Project Egress: A maker collaboration on building a replica of the Apollo 11 door (Adam Savage, Jimmy Diresta, This old tony, Blondihacks, etc) [2]

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KSahAoOLdU&list=PL-_93BVApb... [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2o_Sp2-aBo [2] https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%23projectegres...

As a citizen of the United States (who came of age well after this event took place), I've only ever been told that this was an act of heroic success, something to be proud of, something that America should be proud of. I'm curious what the reception to this was outside of the U.S. Especially, e.g., to someone living in the USSR, what was it like hear that someone else had put a man on the moon?

I'm too young to have witnessed it myself but my impression is that the US astronauts were making it clear they were representing all of humanity.

As a little boy, I went through the usual astronaut phase. There was this brilliant TIME magazine photo book of the space program up to and including the then new space shuttle that I kept renewing from the library every time. I remember at the time, that those events of 10-15 years earlier felt like ancient history.

I didn't know or care about wars, cold or hot, or any dark side. To me America was that place where they had a meteor crater and they put men on the moon.

Decades later when I got to visit Kennedy Space Center, seeing the rocket garden, the actual vehicle assembly building, a real Saturn V rocket, the actual Apollo 14 command module (!!!) in real life was an emotional experience, like that 10 year old boy teleported back into me. I felt like running around, crying, laughing, I can't describe it.

We dumped the kids with their grand parents at that Disney thing that trip. I thought they would be bored, but I'm definitely taking them next time.

If you ever find yourself in Kansas for some reason, there's an excellent space exploration & rocketry museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, of all places, called the Kansas Cosmosphere. It is very good, doubly so considering where it is. Nice collection, and very well presented. Not exactly close to other places anyone's likely to visit, but a great detour destination if you happen to be driving through.


I actually like the cosmosphere better than the Smithsonian or the rocket center in Hunstville. They have a good collection of Russian stuff, and it’s the most adult oriented, with good annotations on the displays.

It's funny that now that I don't live a 12 hour flight away from those places any more, I can't go because I don't have any vacation days.

Seem to recall seeing a documentary that said at first the USSR ignored the moon landing and once word leaked in, covered it in a very casual passing manner like one would a story about the wedding of a local politician. I do wonder if the genesis of the moon landing was a hoax story was some propaganda group within the Soviet government. If so, they got a lot of bang for their ruble.

I was 9 years old, living in rural Australia. My mother woke me an my two brothers to see it on tv (at about 11 pm). We were tremendously exited by it all. My father had read articles from the news paper to us about the spacecraft (eg, it burned 13 tons of fuel per second on launch). We knew all the details of the various missions leading up to it, mercury, gemini, surveyer. We also watched Armstrong step onto the moon a couple of days later on tv in my classroom at school.

"Using elephants to visualize how much fuel a Saturn 5 used per second" https://imgur.com/gallery/5Zl5NmT

Well, I'm from the UK and I definitely think that it is something you should be proud of - it was awesome and the astronauts, all of them, true heroes.

NB I apparently watched the Apollo 11 landing at the age of 4 and was utterly obsessed with it for many years as a kid.

I'm from Poland, my father told me that everyone here was excited as well and that this topic dominated conversations for weeks here.

From what I've seen in documentaries, the entired world was thrilled.

It never happened. That was my reception.

My main gripe against my otherwise entirely loving parents was that they didn't get me up in the middle of the night to watch the landings on TV when I was little!

So one of my friends is like "Moon landing is fake, here's a bunch of reasons". One of them was the shadows in the photos not acting like the come from a single distanct lightsource. Since this popped up here today, and I'm sure there are many more knowledgeable than I, I'd like to ask:

What's up with the shadows in this picture? (it's one from wikipedia page) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_11#/media/File:Buzz_sal...

They seem odd. Thanks in advance for any insights.

NVidia did a nice project a few years ago to model the moon landing in great detail.[1] It's a demo for their graphics cards. They did ray traced renders using actual reflectance data for the objects involved. The lunar surface is reflecting enough light to provide the effect of diffuse lighting from below. It's like being on sunlit sand under a dark sky.

NVidia comments that either the moon landing is real or NASA built a time machine to travel 50 years into the future to get a good GPU.

(For reference, the most powerful computer in the Apollo era, the CDC 6600, was about 10 MIPS. Modern desktop CPU, about 50,000 MIPS. Current top NVidia gamer GPU, about 10,000,000 MIPS. No way could computers of that era render photorealistic pictures.)

[1] https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2014/09/18/debunked/ [2] https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2018/10/11/turing-recreates-lu...

The other thing you might be subconsciously noticing as "odd" is the varying depth or darkness of the shadows. The lunar surface is only illuminated by direct sunlight in an otherwise black sky, so the shadows cast by Aldrin and the lander appear pitch-black. But Aldrin himself is being lit by both direct sunlight and indirect light bouncing off the surface, so the shadowed side of his suit still appears diffusely illuminated.

It makes sense when you stop to think about it (and you can fairly easily recreate the phenomenon in a raytracer) but it looks unnatural because we're used to direct sunlight always being accompanied by indirect skylight.

When you say 'odd', can you be more specific? If you think they aren't parallel, then I would suggest that is purely down the the terrain. They look fine to me. Have a look at the clavius moon base site [1] for much better informed discussion of any issues your friend may have.

[1] - http://clavius.org/

Instead of always trying to debunk conspiracy theories we can also talk about some of the proof that astronauts went to the moon. See if they can debunk that. For example, every mission with Extravehicular activity brought back samples of moon rock (some collecting over 100kg). I find that to be pretty conclusive.

There is also a mirror on the moon, placed by Apollo 14 (IIRC).

Devil's advocate: how can we verify these rocks originated from the moon, and not somebody's back yard?

It's a valid question. The environment required to form these rocks is not found on Earth.[0] The chemistry and mineral composition of Moon rocks is different from Earth rocks. Some of the rocks are older than almost all rocks on Earth (Earth's crust is more active than the Moon's because of plate tectonics). One of the more famous rocks collected is the Genesis Rock.[1] Recently a few channels on YouTube did videos about where the Moon rocks are currently stored [2][3][4] (It's a lot of work and money to keep backyard rocks from getting contaminated if it really is a hoax.)

[0] http://meteorites.wustl.edu/lunar/howdoweknow.htm

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_Rock

[2] Where does NASA keep the Moon Rocks? - Smarter Every Day 220 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxZ_iPldGtI

[3] Apollo’s Most Important Discovery (Inside NASA’s Moon Rock Vault!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr28zMXQ3bU

[4] The Genesis Rock - Objectivity #208 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvhLBzsDwSQ

I have been meditating on Neil Armstrong's spirit. Project Apollo and his legacy in the long lens of history. At the start of Apollo, no one ever expected it to be this impactful. They knew that they were making history, but they simultaneously overestimated the short-term enthusiasm for their project and underestimated its long-term impact. Most people at the time misunderstood the program and thought that it would be just one note in a longer symphony. But then we didn't go back to the moon. We prioritized the F-35s of the world before achievements like Apollo, and that note became the one and only note most people had ever heard.

The astronauts themselves didn't attempt to be this famous or be this defined by this achievement. This misunderstanding became much clearer when the program ended and all of the Apollo astronauts faced an existential crisis and a deep depression following their crowning achievement. Their lives - the lives of some of the smartest and most driven people to ever live - peaked in their 40's and that was it.

It's hard to imagine a different perception of Apollo than the one we have right now, but again hindsight is different than foresight. The agency didn't seem to grasp the magnitude of their achievement - look at how they treated the original video tapes that had been transformed for live TV video. It was a thing, it happened and that was that. The rockets, science etc were more valuable and no one was focused on the mission itself from our current hagiographic perspective.

Their oversight came with a cost. No one - not even NASA - realized the obvious at the time; the astronauts were never going to be human beings after their moon walks. They were going to be such and such who walked on the moon. And in a way - in the eyes of history - every act following that point was essentially a footnote. After all, how the heck do you top walking on the moon?

This burden was further magnified for Armstrong. Most of us forget the depth of his fame. Carl Sagan wrote about an anecdote where an anthropologist told him that a previously uncontacted tribe (or rather assumed to be uncontacted tribe) asked about Apollo 11 and if it was true if human beings had indeed walked on the moon. Try to put yourself in his shoes and lift the weight he carried. Try to imagine being Neil Armstrong and waking up every single day with the weight that every literate child in the world will learn your name until humanity itself ceases to be. He became The First Man - not a person who was allowed to make mistakes. No, that was too undignified for The First Man.

And he hated every second of it. He refused to sign autographs. He stopped going out into public. Stopped giving interviews. (IIRC, the last one he gave was to an accountant https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/05/neil-ar...) And chose to live his life as a recluse.

But perhaps, this tendency is why he was chosen in the first place. Deke Slayton and the other administrators, wisely, knew that he would be a better First Man than someone like Aldrin, who can be described in the most charitable of terms as a fame whore. http://www.americaspace.com/?p=24709 And so one of the most shy and cerebral men of his generation was chosen to be a "living monument." And perhaps a monument to the American era as a whole. As of writing, Armstrong is already more famous than Alexander the Great - after whom at least three major languages have literally defined the word "great." (even now his name isn't Alexander of Macedonia, but Alexander the Great.) And Alexander himself will be forgotten before Armstrong is. He is without a doubt, the most famous human to ever exist. And long after the American empire ceases to be, he will still be remembered as an example of what we achieved. Barring a calamity, he will be remembered for all time as long as human beings are alive.

It was a very heavy burden, but Armstrong bore it with grace. Perhaps with greater grace than Washington himself, who exemplified the ideal of doing your service and saying goodbye to retire to a farm.

Beyond his technical mind. I am in awe of him as a human being. The more I learn about him, the more I admire him.

You should read more about him here; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/space...

> No one - not even NASA - realized the obvious at the time; the astronauts were never going to be human beings after their moon walks. They were going to be such and such who walked on the moon.

Some of this inability to foresee the impacts on the lives of these astronauts happened because going to the moon was so much bigger than anything that had been done before. But I wonder how much of the long-term impacts also stems from the fact that we stopped going any farther than a low earth orbit. At the time of Apollo, I think everyone assumed we would keep going to the moon, and soon go beyond the moon. I don't think anyone anticipated that there'd only be twelve moonwalkers as of 2019. If we going to the moon was as commonplace now as people anticipated in the late 60s and early 70s, Neil Armstrong's fame probably would have been a lot more bearable. We wouldn't have to constantly ask the same 12 people what it's like to stand on the moon.

Have you read MoonDust? It's a book about exactly what you described, what it was like for these men to try and build a life on earth after having walked on the moon. It comes up in most threads about Apollo this summer, and it's a great read.


The moon landing will look less fantastic once space travel becomes commonplace. People will largely forget his name, especially when the US hegemony has ended. Your assessment comes across as a tad hyperbolic.

Have you forgotten Alexander the Great given that there were empires like the British Empire on whom the sun never set? Or, Archimedes given that the screw is everywhere?

Did we forget the Illiad after Harry Potter came along?

Albert Einstein is surely more famous? Imagine coming up with two theories that barely anyone understands, but they still want their kids to be like you?

Einstein's achievements are less approachable. Every human being on the planet immediately understands at least some of the gravity of a human landing on that thing in the sky we have seen since before we were on two legs.

Not to mention Einstein is notable because of the fact that he was of once-in-a-century level intellect. His name is literally synonymous with genius. Neil Armstrong, while certainly smart and brave, was little more than a regular human being.

New Atlas had the best story about it (out of all the obligatory stories) this week: https://newatlas.com/apollo-11-anniversary/59993/

We just sent out our 50th Anniversary special issue of The Orbital Index: https://orbitalindex.com/archive/2019-07-16-Issue-21/

The BBC podcast "13 minutes to the moon" is very worth-while.

And it's not even front page news.

As we recall Apollo 11, let us not forget about the rocket. Funny XKCD strip: https://xkcd.com/984/

Wow, didn't realize GraphQL ist THAT old!

With increased progress in robotics there will be even less reasons to send people not just to the moon but even to low Earth orbit. If you downvote, please explain why you disagree.

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