Can it really be the case that almost fifty years have passed by since the last time human beings set foot on another world? The Apollo 11 landing site, its flag, fading in the glare of a relentless bombardment of solar radiation?
In an era where we take so much for granted, when technology lets us use augmented reality to chase Pokemon characters around the real world on mobile phones that have upwards of 800 million times the power of the Apollo Guidance Computer, that helped us land on the Moon six times. Can we really have taken no giant leaps in human space flight for so long?
It’s one of the reasons I got in to collecting space memorabilia. That desire to have a physical “contact” point with what is for almost everyone I speak to, the greatest technical achievement in human history.
Being one of a group of collectors, who have a passion for not only the Apollo program, but also for the Mercury and Gemini flights that set the pathway to the Moon, means that I get to handle items which many would think belong in a museum. But being able to share this, via my store, and also at outreach and public events, is a huge part of not only what I do, but what many of my close friends do also.
Through the Space Collective, I have been fortunate enough to be at and also organise events for the public, that have seen these great people, only 24 of whom ever ventured to our nearest neighbour in space, in attendance. Now, all in their 80s the remaining Apollo astronauts are largely a sprightly bunch, modest in the extreme, but very aware of what it is they have done, and what it is they are sharing with the public.
Many of them have devoted their lives to outreach since returning from the Moon. The “Last Man on the Moon” Gene Cernan, being a prime example of this. But even the lesser known heroes of Apollo, people like Al Worden, the Command Module Pilot on Apollo 15, who himself, never set foot on the Moon, but piloted the spacecraft which put Jim Irwin and Dave Scott in to lunar orbit for their descent to Hadley Rille, is a genuine ambassador for outreach and STEM.
Waking up in a morning, and being able to hold in my own hands, items which went to the lunar surface or lunar orbit, from Pete Conrad’s tie pin to Fred Haise’s personal bible, is a thrill and also an honour. I recently attended a conference in the United States, called Spacefest, where I was able to show Alan Bean and Dick Gordon, the Conrad tie pins. The look on their faces was priceless, like they had suddenly been catapulted back in time, to when their comrade and they, journeyed on Apollo 12. That passion never leaves, either them, or me.
I know and have many friends who are also meteorite collectors. With lunar meteorites, no matter how small, again you have this physical contact with something that only a few people have ever set foot on. Whilst it is illegal to own a moon rock from the Apollo program, the lunar meteorites, whilst still rare, are a wonderful outreach tool also. The look on kids faces in particular when they get to hold a genuine moon rock, no matter how small, is mesmerizing.
So, that’s a bit about me… why I do this, why I collect space memorabilia, why I do what I do.
This blog will go forwards, and look at space history and the future. NASA plan at last to launch the SLS (Space Launch System) towards the end of this decade, with the aim of putting people in to lunar orbit by the early 2020s, and then maybe back to the lunar surface. I hope that some of the original Apollo astronauts are still with us to see that happen, for it’s been too long between our “small step” and the next “giant leap”