Monday, July 20, 2009

lunar love good

Today is the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest days in American history. Thank goodness things didn't go horribly wrong. Some foolish doubters still think incorrectly that it was faked.

Three years ago, I wrote about my memories of the Apollo 11 landing and linked to NASA's 30th anniversary website, which was the most current at the time. They now have a great new 40th anniversary site.

We Choose the Moon is a site that is streaming the Apollo 11 mission in real time. My family and I will be gathered around the computer screen at 4:17 p.m. for the landing and 10:56 p.m. for Neil Armstrong's first step.

Several other sites are also worth a look. The Smithsonian Institution has terrific photos and more. The Lunar and Planetary Institute is impressive too. I will be spending more time on the Popular Mechanics pages. What I've read so far of the "Untold Story" is fascinating. has 40 photographs in their Big Picture feature.

I didn't realize until yesterday that Mary Jo Kopechne was killed while Apollo 11 was en route to the moon. My wife and I learned that fact as we watched most of "Teddy: In His Own Words" on HBO.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

the way it was

Walter Cronkite defined the role of anchorman. The iconic newsman died tonight at 92. When I see clips of his career on TV or the Internet, I wish that my parents had watched him more often. They were partial to John Chancellor on NBC and the Huntley-Brinkley Report before that.

Cronkite will always be most associated with his coverage of President Kennedy's assassination and of Apollo 11. As the 40th anniversary of the historic lunar landing approaches, I've been thinking about that night. We were on vacation and the only channel we could get happened to be an ABC affiliate.

I got Walter Cronkite's autograph twice. One year, my father took us to the Robert F. Kennedy Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament at Forest Hills. I asked several famous people to sign a program. Somebody else, who got more signatures than I did, is selling a signed program for $3,500.

When I was in college at GMU, a friend and I waited in line at a record store in Georgetown to get Cronkite's signature on a vinyl album set he had released. I remember that he advised my friend to major in something other than journalism if she wanted to be a journalist. Many network correspondents have law degrees or other areas of expertise.

CBS will air a tribute to Cronkite on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. I'll be setting my DVR to record it, how about you?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

not the pooch!

The new mini-series on the Discovery Channel has my inner child counting the minutes until the next episode. I am loving "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions." They have lots of NASA film footage that I've never seen before. And it's all been remastered for HD. The two episodes that were on this past Sunday covered the Mercury and Gemini missions. Like most people, I am primarily interested in the Apollo flights, which will be featured next Sunday.

There seem to be relatively few commercial breaks, unless you count the whole show as an ad for the DVD set. Maybe if you buy the set, you won't be subjected to the promotional announcements on the bottom third of the screen. At least once the graphic obscured something important in the show. A military helicopter was struggling to rescue both Gus Grissom and his Liberty Bell 7 capsule. The NASA footage showed the helicopter trying to lift the water-filled capsule. Near the climactic moment, the spacecraft was behind a big blue bar promoting the Discovery Channel's mobile phone website. Lame.

If you missed the first two episodes on Sunday, you can get caught up on Saturday.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Comedian Frank Caliendo was a guest on the Kevin & Bean show on Friday. I downloaded several of their podcasts from last week and have been listening to them in my car. Caliendo's impressions always make me laugh. In the interview he talked about his upcoming TBS show. It features a sketch in which he plays all four of the main characters from "Seinfeld." He set the scene in the future to justify the added weight of the characters. The sketch is available online.

There's more funny stuff on the KROQ podcasts. I enjoyed the analysis of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" (especially chapter 13) and the interviews with some "Superbad" cast members.

Best of all was the segment with comedian Joe Rogan. He gave a great description of a National Geographic documentary on superlions that have learned to swim and hunt powerful water buffalo. Just when everything seemed fine, Joe goes crazy defending his suspicion that NASA faked the moon landings. He seemed to doubt that astronauts could have crossed the Van Allen radiation belt. Joe said it looked like the alleged moonwalkers were supported by wires to simulate lower gravity. So basically, he thinks it must be fake because it looked fake.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

like a big pizza pie

A lunar eclipse was visible tonight. I was reminded to look for it after hearing a radio interview with "Mr. Eclipse" himself. My own rushed attempt at a photo of the eclipse turned out terribly.

While looking for an eclipse song other than the obvious one by Bonnie Tyler, I stumbled across an a cappella group called Eclipse.

Back in the days when my friend Bean had a blog, he linked to a great page about one of my favorite record albums from childhood. The "Space Songs" album is loaded with corny tunes about the sun, moon and stars. It includes the original version of "Why Does the Sun Shine," which was famously covered by They Might Be Giants. The album doesn't have an eclipse song though.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

one giant leap

Today is not a national holiday but it should be. 37 years ago tonight men walked on the moon. The momentous event is hardly commemorated at all. Not even by the annual Mooning of Amtrak. The least they could do is to hold their moon-a-thon a week later and claim a tie-in. But they don't.

If you're of a certain age, the lunar landing is probably one of your happiest memories. It certainly is one of mine. Between the flight of Apollo 11 and the unlikely success of the Miracle Mets, the summer of 1969 was amazin'. In a way, I am still the little kid who learned the names of all the Apollo astronauts and all the New York Mets that summer.

My family was on vacation in Noyac when the Eagle landed. We stayed up late to watch the coverage on an old black & white TV in my grandparents' summer cottage. The only channel we could get was WTNH out of New Haven, Connecticut. While most people think of Walter Cronkite's moon coverage, my memory is of Frank Reynolds, Howard K. Smith and science editor Jules Bergman.

Later that summer, my parents took us downtown to see the ticker-tape parade welcoming the astronauts home. Neil Armstrong has kept a fairly low profile since making history but he was interviewed on "60 Minutes" last year.

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