The Astronautica Book Club

Space Books for the Discerning Reader

The Real Meaning of Apollo?

David Baker
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It’s getting close and it’s got me thinking – Apollo, 50 years on from that historic first step on the Moon by the First Man. Now immortalised in a film of that name, Neil Armstrong seemed to epitomise it all. According to books and films of that period, everyone it seemed was pressed against the window of history gazing at the future unfolding before us.  Reflecting back over a lifetime of memories, it wasn’t really like that at all. But nothing new there then, you say! Let me explain.

 We’ve all heard stories from the great and the good, astronauts, rocket scientists and the managers that gripped an opportunity and forged a new industry out of political goals and scientific objectives to create a Space Race in the teeth of a Cold War in imminent danger of heating up to boiling point. But perhaps there is little word from those of us at the bottom, who would never start corporations, pilot a rocket-ship, let alone walk on the Moon. But we were THERE, taking part, and that matters a lot because we remember it as it really was – from the inside of that glass bubble looking out. 

In 1969 we were waiting for that first landing as a goal – a challenge – thrown down before an ideological adversary who we thought at the time was intent on converting the world to an extreme form of totalitarian, Orwellian labour camp serving the high and mighty at the top. Ah well, the naivety of youth! Some did think of it that way, and I was among them, a battle in the War against oppression and terror, but to a young scientist-turned engineer, part of a group waiting for that first landing to be over, the real meaning of Apollo lay in the work that would follow and this potential was the real value in the work we were doing. 

It’s a long story and a journey and I want to take you along with me as it’s told, so no better place to start than at the beginning. Oh, and by the way, keep a copy of Race for Space at your side as you follow the story of that magnificent episode in human history while I open a hidden door on inner aspirations of the time from those of us who really did think we were rewriting the future. There are two sides to every story and with those books and this, you have it all.