45 years ago today, the lunar module from the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon. For the 40th anniversary of the landing in 2009, I put together a page where you can watch the original CBS News coverage of Walter Cronkite reporting on the Moon landing and the first Moon walk, synced to the present-day time. I’ve updated the page to work again this year: just open this page in your browser and the coverage will start playing at the proper time. Here’s the schedule:
Moon landing broadcast start: 4:10:30 pm EDT on July 20
Moon landing shown: 4:17:40 pm EDT
Moon landing broadcast end: 4:20:15 pm EDT
Moon walk broadcast start: 10:51:27 pm EDT
First step on Moon: 10:56:15 pm EDT
Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew: approx 11:51:30 pm EDT
Moon walk broadcast end: 12:00:30 pm EDT on July 21
Buzz Aldrin just did one of Reddit’s crowdsourced Q&As. He hits it out of the park with his first answer:
Q: Is there any experience on Earth that even compares slightly to having been on the Moon?
A: My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was “Magnificent desolation.” The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream — achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate — there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.
Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away — no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up — but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.
That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.
There is an exciting relatively new area in mathematics called tropical geometry. If I understand it correctly, the idea here is to redefine the “sum” of two real numbers as their minimum, and the “product” as their usual sum (it is possible to use the maximum instead of the minimum as well). So:
- x ⊕ y = min(x, y)
- x ⊗ y = x + y
I agree this looks rather crazy, but that’s what makes the subject fascinating! For example, [these] beautiful drawings are graphs of polynomials of degree three, tropical cubic curves (in fact, they are elliptic curves).
Here is what a second-degree curve looks like:
A fire is one of the most dangerous things that can happen in a spaceship because there’s nowhere to go; also, flames behave less predictably in weightlessness and are harder to extinguish. In my first year as an astronaut, I think my response to hearing [the fire] alarm would have been to grab an extinguisher and start fighting for my life, but over the past 21 years that instinct has been trained out of me and another set of responses has been trained in, represented by three words: warn, gather, work. “Working the problem” is NASA-speak for descending one decision tree after another, methodically looking for a solution until you run out of oxygen. We practice the “warn, gather, work” protocol for responding to fire alarms so frequently that it doesn’t just become second nature; it actually supplants our natural instincts. So when we heard the alarm on [the space] station, instead of rushing to don masks and arm ourselves with extinguishers, one astronaut calmly got on the intercom to warn that a fire alarm was going off — maybe the Russians couldn’t hear it in their module — while another went to the computer to see which smoke detector was going off. No one was moving in a leisurely fashion, but the response was one of focused curiosity, as though we were dealing with an abstract puzzle rather than an imminent threat to our survival.