Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lunar Landing. . .or Lunacy?

Do you believe that America sent a man to the moon?

Dima is a police officer friend and he’s all business when in uniform. Otherwise, he’s a mischievous kid. Today, he was out of uniform and relaxing at the church building. Even so, he was totally serious.

What’s that again? Our conversation was in Russian, of course, and I figured I hadn’t heard him right.

Do you think it was true – that America sent a man to the moon?

Of course! I saw it with my own eyes on television. I laughed at the words coming out of my mouth. As though being on television made it true.

(Photo courtesy of NASA)

I do remember that summer of ’69. I was heading into my senior year and life was golden. And that July evening, our family crowded around a television to watch the big event. As important as the Apollo landing was, it wasn’t the only milestone that day. Not for our family, anyway.

It was only the second time during my years at home that Dad allowed a television in the house. The first time was November, 1963 for the funeral of JFK. So I definitely remember the moon landing in all its black and white splendor.

Of course I believe it, don’t you?

Nyet, I don’t. For one thing, remember the pictures of the American flag the planted on the moon? Well, there’s no wind on the moon, right? So how could the flag be waving?

Hmmm . . .interesting! This was news to me.

I avoid political discussions and our little chat was borderline. But my interest had been piqued.

Later, I saw another friend, Zhenya relaxing in an armchair. He’s a young guy, steady and objective. Figuring he had overheard our conversation earlier, I asked him what he thought about the moon landing.

Nyet, I don’t think it happened, he said quietly. And that’s what most people here think as well.

I managed to stay calm, detached even during these conversations. That wasn’t hard because, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I’ve never been much of a space program groupie. Or at least I hadn’t been until all this came up. On the other hand, I do value honesty. So if we claim to have sent a man to the moon but sent him instead to the Arizona desert for a photo shoot, that’s pretty serious. My curiosity was accelerating rapidly.

* * * * *

That evening I did an internet search and the volume of information on this topic could fill a small crater. At the Wikipedia site, for instance, is a list of hoax claims, ranging from the flag waving issue to the deaths of key Apollo personnel whose demise has been linked to an alleged cover-up. Along with each hoax claim is a rebuttal by someone involved in the space program. Okay, whatever.

(Photo courtesy of NASA)

What I do find interesting is the opinion of the ordinary Cossack on the street. So I’ve been conducting a totally unscientific survey, asking folks, What do you think about the lunar landing: Do you think it really happened or do you think it was a hoax? Here are their responses.

The nyets – it never happened:
A taxi driver, mid 50s: Of course not. It never happened. The thing is, America is so busy wanting to be number one, to rule the world, that they say things like that. Why, look what they’re doing now in Iraq. . . and they think they can push Russia around. But now thanks to Putin, Russia is getting stronger and. . . etc, etc, and etc. . .

Artash, a university student: No, no I think it did not happen. I’ve seen several programs on this and I believe it probably did not happen.

Irina, mid-40’s, clerk at the corner grocery store: Well, earlier I believed it was true. Now I have my doubts after watching some TV programs.

Taxi driver, mid 40s: What difference does it make? Either it happened or it didn’t happen. I don’t care one way or the other, he said with a laugh, gauging my reaction through the rearview mirror.

Lyda, mid 40’s, a clerk another grocery store: I have no idea.

Customer in the grocery store: This 60-something lady was in line behind me and had overheard the previous conversation. I noticed her brown wool coat, brown felt hat and brown eyes to match. When asked for her opinion, she hedged. The real question, is if there is life elsewhere in space. Is there life on Mars? That’s what we need to be focusing our energies. I had to smile. Mrs. Brown is a diplomat typical of an earlier era. Make no waves, offend no one. Mrs. Brown gets the prize for the most politically correct, Soviet response.

Da! The moon landing happened:
A lady who sat beside me on the tram, mid 60s, retired engineer: Of course it happened, why not? Then she launched into a passionate speech about how wonderful the US government is. We talked quietly so other passengers wouldn’t overhear our conversation but, as I learned later, we were surrounded by listening ears.

A young mother: After the tram, I found myself walking in step with a 20-something woman and her preschool son. It was a crisp autumn evening and in the southwestern sky floated a crescent moon. Tell me, I said, what do you think about the moon landing. Did it happen or not? Oh, I overheard your conversation about that on the tram, she said with a smile. And sure, I believe it happened. We had a ways to walk yet so I continued, And you know, we believe that we know who created that moon. Yes, she said, We believe God created it, don’t we? she said addressing her little fellow.

Gheorge, a 60-something construction worker, retired: Sure, absolutely it happened. Amerika was the first to the moon.

Pavel, a 50-something microbiologist and physician turned preacher. Of course it happened. That other stuff is just old Russian propaganda. Ask those guys who think it was a hoax, ask them if they really believe Gagarin made it into space and Belka and Strelka – the dogs – or if that was just staged as well.

* * * * *

And so there you have it folks. There’s the whole spectrum of views. Those who think it is a hoax tend to be younger folks who have seen programs about it on television. But there are skeptics in the US as well. According to a Gallup poll, 6% of Americans consider the moon landing a fraud, 5% are undecided and 89% believe.

So, how about you?

Where were you summer of ’69? Did you catch the moon landing on television? Do you believe it happened – or was it staged somewhere outside Albuquerque?


Karen L. Alaniz said...

In answer to your question...southeastern Washington.


Karen L. Alaniz said...

Oh Eileen! I finally read your first blog comments, the beginning of 2006. You are such a talented writer and your photography is stunning. You really capture your experience with both words and photos. Keep it up girl! You're goin' places!


Eileen said...

Oh my goodness, Karen! Thank you for such kind words! Think I'll print out your comments and post them for inspiration. Thanks much and I'll try to live up to your assessment! Your ideas and suggestions are Always welcome...and Needed! Thanks again, EE

Rob said...

Most of my Russian friends do not believe it really happened. I used to try and convince them differently but have lost the time, energy and interest to carry that on any longer.

It does kinda make me wonder what I hold to be true that mostly like is not.


Anonymous said...

i dont think that it is true because of the whole flag waving wen there is no wind on the moon.
also i dont trust the americans.ha ha x

Anonymous said...

In '69, I was busy dodging Russian, Czech, and Chinese steel just south of the Republic of Vietnam's 17th Parallel, and wasn't much interested in moon landings--though today, given the incredible leap in international technology, I'd say that yes, indeed, the U.S. did reach the moon that year. But even today I'm little interested in space travel or extraterrestrial pioneering or exploration. What I'd love to see instead would be the formation of a genuine and lasting kinship between Russia, the U.S. and all Europe right here on mother earth. As I grow old, I see nothing but complete folly in the ill-founded regeneration of unnecessary antagonisms between the U.S. and Russia, and have long since come to understand that, were our peoples to truly know one another--indeed were international corporations to be kept out of arms making, war profiteering, provocation, and other such heinous pursuits--there might at last be at least a semblance of real peace on this earth.

(Sorry for the soap-box display.)