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Jo'Burg Days: I Didn’t Believe My Eyes

Barbara Durlacher recalls her reactions what many regard as the most important event in human history.

For some reason I always remember one of the most momentous events of the last century as having occurred a year before it happened. I’m referring to the first time man set foot on the Moon and sadly, due to advancing years, my increasingly unreliable memory insists on telling me that this took place in 1968 – and not in 1969 - the year in which the event actually occurred.

I remember the first time I saw the blurred newspaper pictures of that momentous achievement, with fuzzy images of a clumsy figure carefully descending the two or three steps of a metal ladder leading from the command nodule to the pock-marked surface of the Moon.

Strapped to the back of this anonymous figure, swollen to Michelin Man proportions by his space garb, was a large pack. This housed the life-support system which kept him alive. The system pumped oxygen into his space suit together with the essentials for survival on that alien planet. It also enabled him to stagger a short distance from the mother craft to explore the eminently hostile environment whilst making a collection of the moon samples required by the scientists.

For the first time – EVER – man had placed himself on the MOON, in an environment other than the Earth, the planet on which humans originated, all revolving around one another in the same solar system.

The astronaut’s head was covered by a huge globe-shaped helmet and in later news pictures sharply defined images showed unexpected pictures of the mother ship with immediately alongside it the Stars and Stripes, the national flag of America. For some unfathomable reason, the flag is shown blowing strongly in an invisible wind (is there really a wind on the Moon?) whilst reflected in the toughened glass visor of the astronaut’s helmet in a strange reversal of actuality which served to emphasize the unreality of the whole extraordinary adventure, one could also see the reflection of the his arms holding the camera as he took the photo.

For weeks I refused to accept that the news photos were true as the whole enterprise seemed so unbelievable; but as time passed and other space journeys were undertaken and later the even more hazardous near disaster and miraculous survival of the three-man crew of Apollo Eleven was flashed across the world and onto our tv screens, space travel became almost ordinary.

To our lasting shame, public reaction now seems to take the form of another of those “been there, done that, ho-hum” happenings, so commonplace it hardly merits comment.
Sic transit Gloria.

How jaded we humans have become, that we can accept the unbelievable so easily, and how quickly these momentous achievements are forgotten. Humans are a fickle species always seeking greater and more spectacular sensations, and as time passes and new images, ideas and achievements crowd in ever increasing numbers onto our screens and into our consciousness, we become dulled to the excitement of it all. Yet commonsense tells that in reality it will be practically impossible to ever surpass the momentous achievement of
LANDING THE FIRST MAN ON THE MOON.

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1969: Man takes first steps on the Moon

On July 20, 1969, both Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon. He was shortly followed by his fellow astronaut, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.

Armstrong had earlier reported the lunar module's safe landing at 2017 GMT with the words: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
As he put his left foot down first Armstrong declared: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

He described the surface as being like powdered charcoal and the landing craft left a crater about a foot deep.

(With thanks to Wikipedia)

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