|I live on the Florida Space Coast. Although our local newspaper, Florida Today, reports on such incidents as astronaut Buzz Aldrin's recent confrontation with a moon-landing denier in Beverly Hills, such deniers do not seem to proliferate here. In the Local/State section of Florida Today on September 29, 2002, a story by Chris Kridler is headlined, "Brevard offers great launch-viewing sites." Quoting from the article:|
"Space fans in Brevard County have a luxury that visitors do not: a dazzling array of choices when it comes to seeing a space shuttle launch. . . . 'When that baby lights off, you can see it with the naked eye,' said [a tour guide who takes passengers on a boat trip to view the launch from the water]. . . . 'The wall of sound [from the blast-off], you can really see it coming across the water on a calm day or a calm night.' . . . Fish literally jump out of the river, and 'the whole boat shakes for about 12 seconds.' . . . The good news for the cheap of wallet is that there are plenty of good free viewing sites. Just remember to go early, be patient when parking, and be really patient when leaving, because there will be a traffic jam."
I am usually at work during daytime shuttle launches, but no matter how busy my colleagues and I are, many of us usually take a break when the countdown reaches one or two minutes. We go outside with radios tuned to the countdown and watch the sky. We are much too far from the launch pad to see the initial liftoff, but within moments after it's reported, we see what looks like a small sun rising in the sky, followed by a long puffy tail of white smoke. Craning our necks to watch the bright spot's ascent, we seem to rise with it, our cares falling behind and forgotten for the moment. We keep watching that spot as it appears to turn into a traveling star--and some of us remain standing at attention even after the star appears to wink out, for within a few more moments, the slower-traveling sound of the liftoff reaches us in long waves of low thunder. After the sound arrives I go back to work, but it takes me a while longer to come down to earth.
On one unforgettable occasion, I went to a nearby beach to watch a night liftoff. It looked like a sunrise at night, if you can imagine such a thing. I watched it with a big crowd, including a group of teenagers who chanted along with their radio's broadcast of the last ten seconds of the countdown and cheered at the tops of their lungs as the shuttle went up. Leaving the beach in a slow-moving line of cars, I listened to the shuttle's progress on my car radio; by the time I got out of the parking lot, the shuttle was already over Africa.
I've lived here only since 1989. During the Apollo missions, I lived in New York City. After the break between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden, I continued to see a number of people I had met at the Nathaniel Branden Institute; for the first moon landing, we gathered at the high-rise apartment of one who had three TV sets and had tuned them to each of the networks. Each network's report was slightly different from the others. The landing was broadcast live; I've never forgotten how agonizingly slow it was. When Neil Armstrong said, "Contact light," I gasped, "They're down!"--but my distracted companions didn't hear me. A few moments later, when he said, "The Eagle has landed," everyone in the room heard it and shouted in relief.
Weeks later, I read Ayn Rand's stunning essay "Apollo 11," which had just been published in the September 1969 issue of The Objectivist. As I told her in a brief thank-you letter I wrote to her, I was eating lunch at work when I read the article, "and I didn't taste a thing." Rand had witnessed the Apollo 11 liftoff at Kennedy Space Center--as close as witnesses could get to seeing it--and virtually relived her experience in her essay. Reading it even now, I still feel as though I'm witnessing the liftoff with her.
I suspect that moon-landing denial hasn't caught on here because watching shuttle liftoffs makes it impossible to believe we did not go to the moon. I note that the reported incident in which Buzz Aldrin punched a denier who had been harassing him took place in Southern California, where movies and TV shows proliferate. But no matter where you live, or whether you were alive during the Apollo missions, you may recognize the theory that the moon landings were fabricated as a fantasy typical of paranoid schizophrenia. If the moon-landing disbelievers are sane, they still exhibit the mental infirmity of the idle. Those who believe that NASA and the media had nothing better to do than to pull off such a hoax--and to somehow manipulate Space Coast residents and visitors to experience mass hallucinations of spacecraft launches--have nothing better to do themselves.
Note: The newly repaired space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to be launched on a new mission on Wednesday, October 2, 2002.