It was almost 50 years ago, but I can remember it very well.
It was a Monday afternoon and there we were, the second grade pupils of the Reservoir Primary School sitting cross-legged on the floor, the accordion door separating the two classrooms, pressed open so we could watch an 18″ black and white TV in a distant corner of the enlarged room.
Since the classrooms were as big as in 1969, there were probably 80 children and two teachers watching.
We waited for a seemingly endless time, but it was probably less than an hour. It could have been much worse. While Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin stayed on the Lunar Module two hours after landing, they decided not to take their nap, which made me and the rest of the world wait six or eight hours longer.
Our posterior teeth, throbbing from the cold linoleum floor and with temporary obstacles of seven- and eight-year-old bonzes blinking on the distant screen, showed mixed results, blurred images of light and shadow. It was like observing an ultrasound in 20 steps. But we understood that something big was happening.
We weren’t rudely swept out of our usual schedule and thrown to the ground without warning. We knew this would happen. Our show-and-tell sessions were littered with stories about Apollo II read from newspapers, from its launch in the giant Saturn V rocket three days earlier to the point where Columbia began its first of thirty orbits around the moon.
I remember looking into the night sky in the backyard to see a sign of Apollo II on his 384,500-kilometer journey to the Moon as if he could appear like a blazing comet.
We waited on the hard ground until Armstrong ascended. He said the words: “This is a small step for man, a great leap for mankind,” when his left foot touched the lunar surface at 1:56 pm. History records it as four minutes to midnight, Sunday 20 July, American Eastern Time, but in Australia the man set foot on the moon for the first time on Monday 21 July, shortly after the lunch break.
Without a doubt, the news editors thought about which picture would appear on the front page. My memory is that The Age ran with the photo taken by Armstrong’s partner Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin’s footprint on the lunar surface, a set of horizontal stripes etched into the dust. No Nike swooshes or Adidas stripes.
The then Melbourne Sun ran with Armstrong’s shot from planet Earth in a state of gibbos growing, surrounded by darkness and the moon’s surface in the foreground. I doubt there has ever been a more powerful image, and I bet it has changed collective consciousness forever. For the first time we could see that, with the exception of Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins, who orbited the moon in Colombia, we were where we all hung delicately in space.
This image shook our brains. It has led to environmental concerns and a deep-rooted aggregated feeling that we are all connected in this matter and that we should not stuff it.
This image and over 10,000 others made available to the public, and the granular video that was broadcast live into my classroom, have led to a confusion of complex conspiracy theories that what we had seen was a complicated forgery, an event that took place in a studio in Arizona or possibly in a California basement, depending on which Loon made the babble.
The confused conspiracy theorists claim that Armstrong and Aldrin did not walk on the moon, nor did the astronauts of Apollo’s 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17.
This nonsense is proof that the idiots of our time have gained importance as if the Khmer Rouge had secretly conquered the planet and led the mute, the twisted, the loudmouthed, and the crass, while we must all pretend to be ruthless taxi drivers so that we do not think we are capable of reason and rational thinking.
The leader of the mad lunar conspiracy theorists is Bart Sibrel, an occasional guest on talk shows with low or no reputation, maker of four horrible movies and a confirmed serial pest who walks around demanding astronauts swear on a Bible that they walked on the moon.
This has resulted in another granular video almost as impressive as the moon landing itself, where a 72-year-old Buzz Aldrin lands a solid right hand on Sibrel’s jaw after the conspiracy has been completed.