For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by the cosmos. As a youth, I loved watching the space shuttle launch, dove into every book I could find on space, on the planets, and dreamt of the discoveries to come. My favorite toy was a steel replica of an F-16 with retractable landing gear and missiles, which amazingly I still have today (minus the ordnance.) I had a fervent fascination for everything fast, flying, and complex, despite the fact that I had no idea how significantly difficult these things were to produce. It's no wonder I find the 50 and 60 such a fascinating time in our history.
But for some reason during my teenage years I found myself drifting from the infinite worlds above, and focused on the finite and small. You'd think I would have become an engineer and aspired to work for JPL or NASA, or enlist in the military and fly jets, progressing naturally along the path of so many astronauts during the origins of the space program. I did, after all, work for the Navy as a civilian so I was comfortable in that environment. But I made an abrupt turn to a different branch of science, towards biology and physiology, and forgot my passion for the promise of a steady career in healthcare. But back to why I chose to write a blog today.
I watched Last Man this weekend, and although I don't feel it was as inspiring as Apollo 13, (because what can be) I still found myself in awe of the experience. It was without question a biopic about Armstrong, and in being so allowed it focused on the one piece of the space race puzzle. It was a riveting look at who was so much more that the first man on the moon. It captures why he was the "ideal man" to command the fabled Apollo 11, and why he was selected over so many great candidates. This movie captured the realism, the incredible difficulty and the imperfect side of early NASA like nothing I've seen. It was a welcomed change from the typical perfect robotic side of engineering we often see in cinema regarding these supremely complex dilemmas, and revealed how humanity and instinct can play a role in emergencies.
As soon as the movie ended I needed more. I dove straight into the book, FIRST MAN by James Hansen, to experience more details of Armstrong. There were so many things in the movie which hinted at multiple near death sutuations Armstrong found himself in before Apollo 11, and revealed how incredibly cool he was under pressure. I'd seriously recommend this biography. It's stunning.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that there's obviously been some controversy over whether the moon landings have ever taken place. Well, here's the thing. No telescope in the known universe, including Hubble, can capture details finite enough to prove the lander's are there. HOWEVER, Japan has recently sent a probe to orbit the moon, and guess what it did with its cameras? It captured images of the lander's on the surface. Japan has no skin in the game and are completely unbiased, so there we go. Beyond that, countries like the US, GB, Japan have also successfully placed small probes on one of Saturns moons and on asteroids which are markedly more difficult to achieve. Understandably, they don't have living souls on board, but it speaks to what we are capable of.
It is things like these that helped pique my curiousity, which allow my to go back to pursuing my passion of the cosmos, even though I'm living vicariously through others. One individual I very much appreciate is Bobak Ferdowsi, a JPL engineer. He does an amazing job of making these cosmic achievements understandable in a unique and captivating way. Through my brief interactions with him, he has helped me achieve a deeper understanding of our current situations involving so many space ventures. It helped to change and inspire my latest novel KHAOS.
I'm going back to listening to FIRST MAN now. You should too.