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. The less-famous Michael Collins orbited the Moon while Armstrong and Aldrin made history. To commemorate this iconic moment, I watched the Apollo 11 documentary. It is excellent, and I recommend it.

The footage is, in the truest sense, awesome. It starts with the giant tracks of the vehicle that transports the rocket and launch tower. The technical quality of the footage is amazing. Its behind-the-scenes nature is exciting. I can’t help but fixate on the fashion, hairstyles, and even packaging that are on-screen. I’m into aesthetics anyway, but the vividness of the images makes it seem recent.

The production is admirable. The editing suits this 93-minute documentary. It shows everything from launch prep to post-mission quarantine, but it doesn’t drag. The lack of narration is wise, too. The radio communication is compelling by itself and the news commentary is informative. The original score, by Matt Morton, 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.

But I was nearly in tears while the Apollo 11 was safely returning to Earth. This figurative and literal touchdown 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.