Apollo 11

In 1962 President Kennedy announced in a speech in Houston, Texas. “We choose to go to the moon,” the president said. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

President Kennedy - We Choose to Go to the Moon
12th September 1962

As with all of humankind’s endeavors to explore and learn, the will and determination to do something must be the beginning of any success you should expect to get. The challenge was exceptional and along with the desire to make it happen, the political desire was equally as important with America wanting to win the space race to beat the Soviet Union, that had been taking all the success with the first satellite, Sputnik 1 and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.

Long before Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, thousands of people had to figure out just how to do it. They had to test their theories on propulsion, guidance and life support, then test them again and again. In tragic instances, some gave their lives as in the crew of Apollo 1 and a terrible crew capsule fire. The learning’s from that fire helped with changes to the design of the final crew capsule. I’m not going to give you a history channel blog and I just wanted to share my feelings about this element of the space race. So much of the space program is well documented but I just wanted to acknowledge the great many people that were behind the astronauts and ultimately in getting humans to the Moon.

Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by space exploration and the Apollo years. I remember having posters on my bedroom wall of the rockets, space walks and those amazing people walking on the Moon.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s 11’s historic landing on the Moon on the 20th July 1969 and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some Astronauts and see the rockets and equipment up close. A couple of years ago, I went to NASA in Cape Kennedy and I remember being impressed when seeing the Gemini program rocket, however nothing prepared me when I got up close to the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

NASA 2017
Space Shuttle Atlantis
NASA 2017
NASA 2017

I actually got emotional when I realised I was standing next to a real piece of space history that I had watched launch in my lifetime. I never thought I’d get that close to the orbiter and for me it was overwhelming. Later in the day I took a tour over to launch complex 39 where Apollo 11 and the later shuttle launches took place. The real treat was seeing the true epic size of the Apollo series Saturn V rocket stages.

NASA 2017
NASA 2017
NASA 2017

These engines were a real contrast to the size of the small capsule at the top where the crew traveled.

NASA 2017

The trip to NASA was a dream of a lifetime and I really didn’t want to leave. As an extra unexpected treat, the current Space X Falcon 9 Heavy rocket launched as my Virgin Atlantic flight headed back to London. Seeing the flash of the engines upon launch and then seeing the rocket rise past us at 39,000 feet was a rare and amazing experience timed purely by luck.

Many years earlier I was lucky again to meet astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I didn’t get much time to talk with him but I’ll always remember shaking the hand of the second man to walk on the Moon. I really should try to smile in pictures.

Buzz Aldrin

I’ve always loved meeting the people I admire in films, TV or Sport and I have a fairly well stocked signed photo collection. Some of those people I meet are my hero’s that have either lived up to my expectations or been a big let down. I wouldn’t say that Buzz Aldrin was the friendliest person I’ve ever met but he did sign one of the most important images in human history for me and a prized piece of my collection. The picture Neil Armstrong took of him that became one of the most iconic of the whole mission. The refection of Armstrong in his visor and the Luna lander, ‘Eagle’ clearly visible.

BUZZ ALDRIN Signed Photo

After 50 years the space program has taken a different direction with deep space exploration being completed by drones that have explored Mars, passing Asteroids and Comets instead of humans which I personally think is a real shame. Should the technology have been available, would we have sent a drone to the undiscovered countries, instead of exploring them for ourselves? I think not. We should go and see them with our own eyes and take the risks that go along with it. I’d do it in a heart beat.

Man’s Giant leap was a long time ago and I’m please that NASA are now developing the Space Launch System for a possible manned mission to Mars. Here’s to the next leap. I just hope I get to see it in my life time.

To the Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and the men and women of NASA. Thank you for proving humans can be brave, amazing and an inspiration for us all to be better to each other and the planet we all share.


Moli and the 50th…

November was really a count down to the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.  Having attend the Proms in the summer and recently visited the set in Cardiff, it made sense that I attended the official celebration in London’s docklands.  It had been sold out about an hour after the tickets went on sales several months before and I had high hopes.  The event was very well attended and must have had 5000 or more dressed up as The Doctor or other characters from the show. 

Matt Smith

Various monsters were seen walking about and the production stands were very interesting.  The talks were fairly unrehearsed and awkward, especially the SFX talk which felt very random.  However, all that was overshadowed for me as I had the opportunity to meet The Doctor himself, Matt Smith. 

Matt Smith

Moli & Matt Smith

The day passed quickly and then it was onto the main event, The Day of the Doctor.  An episode that had to please fans and still be entertaining for those that don’t watch on a regular basis.  The story fulfilled everything I wanted and could expect.  Watching my favorite TV show in a cinema with other fans all dressed up and cheering and laughing together was an amazing and magical experience which served to enhance the story and celebration.

Day of the Doctor
Day of the Doctor

The surprise of Tom Baker’s appearance towards the end was very emotional for older viewers like me and a huge cheer went up when new Doctor Peter Capaldi’s eyes appeared.  The story delivered in the most part with John Hurt really standing out as The War Doctor but the Zygon’s were a little wasted and actually forgotten in narrative terms.  However, I loved it and have watched it 5 times so far. Roll on Christmas…  Allonsy.