John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2007 September 9
    The NYC chapter of National Space Society is about the most active 
of chapters, hosting regular monthly meetings with inhouse or outside 
speakers. It also runs special events like the annual 'Allies in 
space' show to highlight space exploration projects. This year's event 
is on November 3rd at the City University Graduate Center. Click the 
link on the homepage of 
    The chapter also has occasional social events to let the members 
interact informally. One such event was the viewing of the new movie 
'In the shadow of the Moon' on Saturday 8 September 2007. We convened 
at the chapter's meeting room in New York University, heard some news 
and announcements, collected handouts. Then at 4:30PM we walked to the 
New York showing 
    The film is a documentary of the Apollo lunar flights narrated by 
their own astronauts. It is directed by David Sington and moderated by 
Ron Howard, of 'Apollo 13' fame. It is really the words of the 
astronauts, in candid dialog, that propels the plot. Also included are 
filmage not previously publicly shown, mostly ground-based shots of 
training and preparation for the flights. 
    The movie debuted at the Hayden Planetarium at an invite-only 
showing on Wednesday the 5th. This was attended by press and Museum 
officials, plus a select few spacefaring advocates. Chapter president 
Harold Egeln and NSS executive director George Whitesides were among 
the guests. The reception after the showing featured five Apollo 
astronauts to mingle with the audience. 
    The public opening was on Friday the 7th at Landmark's Sunshine 
theater on Houston St, 1st-2nd Av, Lower East Side. This was a brisk 
walk from NYU, at Washington Square. The closest subway, under the 
theater's sidewalk, is 2nd Av, IND Houston St. Others a walk away are 
Grand St, IND 2nd Av[!]; Bowery, BMT Nassau St; 8th St, BMT Broadway; 
and Astor Pl, IRT Lexington Av. Buses run in Houston St, 2nd Av and 
1st Av. 
    The film plays for several weeks at least at this cinema at 
various hours of the day. Tickets are $10.75 for adults. At the 5:30PM 
show we attended, the house was 1/3 to 1/2 full, or about 100 people. 
Almost all were young or older adults, with only a couple children. 
Apollo flights 
    The Apollo project was the culmination of nine years effort to 
land a human on the Moon and return him safety to Earth. It was 
sparked by the 1961 State of the Union address by President Kennedy. 
The project proceded in stages, beginning with suborbit and brief 
orbit flights of Mercury capsules holding one person. The next step 
was a two-person orbit of many days in Gemini capsules. 
    Apollo 1, the dry run of a simulated launch, ended in a fire that 
killed its three-person crew. The capsule was filled with pure oxygen 
at one atmosphere pressure, a factor that intensified the fire. Apollo 
2 thru 7 were Earth orbit flights to test maneuvering and navigation 
    Apollo 8 was also planned as an earth orbit flight. Then, word got 
out that the Soviet Union was about to send a crewed capsule on a 
lunar round-and-back ride within weeks. Apollo 8 was redirected for a 
round-and-back lunar ride, which was successfully flown in December 
    Apollo 9 and 10 were also lunar flights to practice maneuvering 
near the Moon but not to attempt a landing. The spacecraft were 
slugged against any such trick. Apollo 11 was the first of three shots 
at getting onto the Moon by the end of the decade in July 1969. If it 
failed, two more shots were on the books for September and November.
    With the success of Apollo 11, America won the moon race. For good 
measure, we sent Apollo 12 to the Moon and back in December 1969. The 
film emphasizes the Apollo 11 flight, but the astronauts commented on 
the entire series, right thru the last one in 1972. 
    Since that last Apollo flight, no one ventured into space farther 
than low Earth orbit. In fact, the US didn't even send a robot probe to 
the Moon for the next 25ish years! And, to this year, 2007, we sent 
only two such probes, Prospector and Clementine. 
The astronauts
    The movie was carried by ten Apollo astronauts, shown mainly in 
face-only scenes with flashback to the incidents they described. The 
ten are Aldrin, Bean, Cernan, Collins, Duke, Lovell, Mitchell, 
Schmidt, Scott, and Young. Among them, every Apollo mission is 
    Conspicuously missing was Armstrong. From his own wish he passed 
up a role in the film, but supports it thru publicity. He is, never 
the less, incorporated in the collateral filmage and dialog by the 
other astronauts. 
    One thing that haunts many spacefarers is the antiquity of the 
Apollo crews. They are all in their upper senior years! The closeup 
scenes magnified their senior features, turning them into your 
grandfather or elder uncle. Well, there are no new lunar astronauts; 
the last flight was, uh, 35 years ago. 
The message
    'In the shadow of the Moon' is a pure recounting of the Apollo 
era, like that of other films on historical episodes. There is no 
latent agenda, no agitation for reviving human lunar exploration, no 
recruiting or enticing for astronaut careers, no solicitation for 
space exploration funding. 
    The movie did portray the social climate of the 1960s with scenes 
from the Vietnam war, civil rights and feminist movements, college 
campus unrest. Otherwise, it was narrowly the emotions and feelings of 
the crews that in the circle of humans who traveled to the Moon. 
    There was a short segment about the 'moon hoax', quickly trashed 
by the astronauts. If we did fake the initial lunar flight to fool the 
Soviets, why did we then fake it eight more times? 
    The astronauts speak of anxiety in flight, worries, quick thinking 
for problems, musings while on the Moon, body reactions, appreciation 
for Earth. Only at the very end, a couple mentioned the importance of 
looking after the Earth as the home of human and other life, in 
contrast to the utterly lifeless and hostile Moon. The audience has to 
read into this the genesis of the modern environmental movement. 
Audience reaction
    The particular audience at our showing exited more or less without 
excess expression. The older folk chatted about how they remember the 
Apollo news as youths. The younger ones, not even born yet in the 
1960s, hazarded that Apollo must have been an interesting phase of 
    No one mentioned the current NASA project for returning to the 
Moon, President Bush's Moon-Mars-Beyond theme, beating China/North 
Korea/Iran/Mali/Nicaragua. No one expressed even a wish that we could 
be still exploring the Moon by human visits. 
Other Apollo items
    Separately from the instant NSS social, I learned of other curious 
Apollo items. First, there were supposed to be missions thru Apollo 20 
into the mid 1970s. Apollo 20 was cancelled to release a Saturn V 
rocket for Skylab. Apollo 18 and 19 were scrubbed because the space 
race was over. The command capsule for the Apollo 18 is on display at 
the Cradle of Aviation museum, Mitchell Field, Long Island. 
    Apollo 18 was targeted to the Aristarchus plateau, Oceanus 
Procellarum, to investigate transient luminous outbursts reported in 
and near crater Aristarchus. 
    The Saturn V was the largest heaviest rocket in routine service. 
The Soviets tried their own super rocket but it never achieved a good 
flight. All exploded or were purposefully destroyed within seconds 
after liftoff. No rocket of comparable size and bulk was fielded by 
any entity since then. 
    The last remaining Saturn V fuselage is displayed, mounted 
horizontally in sections, at the Marshall Space Flight Center, 
Huntsville, Alabama. Two others are at Kennedy Space Center and 
Johnson Space Center. 
    NASA has on the drawing boards the Ares rocket, a sort of modern 
Saturn V. It is billed as the booster for human flights to the Moon 
and Mars. With a lift of some 40 tons of payload, the Ares could be a 
handy way to field major new automated or robot solar system craft. 
Yet, no spacefaring group -- not even those who build or design 
spaceprobes -- is seriously pushing to use it for such missions. 
After the show
    When the theater let out, Harold Egeln handed out notices of 
Allies in Space and NYSkies website, as leftover litterature from the 
chapter meeting, We then, six from that meeting, walked to Moonstruck 
diner on 2nd Av near 5th St for supper. We rehashed the movie and 
bantered about human space flight.