Tim Tan Huynh

The Moon Landing

20 Jul 2019 — Neil Armstrong made his "one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind" on this day 50 years ago. His was supported by the dedication, knowledge, and skills of many others.
Apollo 11 crew
From left to right, the Apollo 11 crew consisted of Neil Armstrong (Commander), Michael Collins (Module Pilot), and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first person to ever set foot on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin joined him shortly afterward. Michael Collins, their overlooked crew member, orbited the moon while Armstrong and Aldrin made history. To commemorate this iconic moment, I watched the Apollo 11 documentary. It is excellent and highly recommend it.

Firstly, the footage is awesome in the truest sense. The opening shot is the caterpillar tracks of the gigantic vehicle that transports the rocket and its support tower to the launch site. The technical quality of the footage is amazing and its behind-the-scenes nature is exciting. My fixation on the fashion, hairstyles, and even packaging is partly the result of me being into aesthetics and partly the result of the footage being so vivid.

Secondly, the production is admirable. This documentary is well-edited; it shows everything from the launch preparation to the post-mission quarantine, but at 93 minutes, it doesn’t drag. The lack of narration isn’t a hindrance because the NASA radio communication is compelling and the select newscast commentary is informative. The music, which is an original score, appropriately sets the mood for each phase.

The visual presentation is noteworthy as well. I like the understated style of the countdown timers and the distance/velocity counters. More importantly, they provide context and interest to footage that would otherwise be confusing or boring. Animations let the viewer to visualize the trajectory of the spacecraft throughout the mission. They helped me to appreciate the precision and timing that was needed for every maneuver in each phase.

I still believe that D-Day is the most important historical event to have a milestone anniversary this year. Its beneficial impact is more palpable than the Moon landing, even though the latter is more universally famous. It’s so famous that “the Moon landing” is understood to be the first one, as if it’s the only one. Whenever I think about it, I remember the Watchmen opening, this music video, and that episode of Mad Men.

The Mad Men episode is particularly interesting. It helps me to imagine how captivating the event must’ve been for everybody, not just for Americans or Westerners. I also think about the teenaged guy whom Sally meets when his family visits the Francis home; he’s totally unimpressed by the live footage. I haven’t been as jaded as him, but, to be honest, I’ve felt more obligated than excited to think and write about the Moon landing.

However, I was nearly in tears while I watched Apollo 11 safely returning to Earth. Their safe return was the other half of the mission that President Kennedy set forth several years earlier, after all. The collective knowledge and effort needed, especially considering the state of technology at the time, is impressive, and if viewed within the span of human history, the achievement is quite humbling.

I’m not a space geek, so I’m not dying to see a similar mission to Mars, but the Moon landing is undeniably an embodiment of our capacity for awe, curiosity, and exploration.