Memories of the fantastic voyage to the moon on it’s 50th anniversary!

–Lachman Balani

It was the summer of ’69 and I was literally over the moon as I had just graduated from the American School of Tangier, a US secondary school in Tangier, Morocco and was preparing to go to Cornell University in the US for further studies in engineering.

Amidst all the excitement of getting ready for university, another extraordinary event, the imminent moon landing, heightened my adrenalin levels as I was highly interested in science.

Way back in ‘68 and ‘69 when the Russians and Americans were running neck and neck in the race towards the moon, I was actually rooting for the Russians as they were the first to launch the space  satellite Sputnik and the first to put a man, Yuri Gagarin, into orbit. The Soviets were also the first to hard land (unpowered) and soft land (powered) a spacecraft on the moon. The U.S.S.R. was also the first to get photos of the lunar surface.

I would jokingly tell my American friends in school that “the Russians are gonna paint the moon red!”

They would laugh back: “nah, we doubt it, but even if they do, heck when we get there we will spray it white with the Coca Cola logo!”

Such was the ingenuity of American marketing even way back then.

I remember well also that after the “dress rehearsal” Apollo 10 mission in May of the same year, there were rumours that Russia, cloaked in secrecy, would somehow beat the US and send up a manned mission to land on the moon before the upcoming Apollo 11 voyage in July.

However, the great day finally arrived for the Americans. My family and I huddled around the black and white TV on July 16, 1969, to watch history unfurl. With memories of the fire that killed three astronauts in the Apollo 1 mission a couple of years earlier and Neil Armstrong’s near death experience a year earlier still fresh in everyone’s minds, I kept my fingers crossed that nothing drastic would occur as the countdown began. Continue reading “Memories of the fantastic voyage to the moon on it’s 50th anniversary!”