Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fit to Print

About a month before Moonshot came out this spring, I received a rather wonderful gift from one of my enablers at Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, a July 21, 1969 edition of The New York Times. (Thank you, E.D.D.) The coverage is as thorough and as interesting as you’d expect from the Times during the glory days of newsprint. The entire first section and a special supplement of the paper are devoted to Apollo; there is a wealth of informative articles about the landing itself and about how it was planned and carried out, and indeed about the whole evolution of space flight. It’s the pre-Internet Times, when the paper, in its newspaper of record role, would run pages and pages of transcripts of important events — in this case all the back and forth between Mission Control and Columbia and Eagle. There is also a description by the administrator of NASA of the moon bases, nuclear rocket shuttles, and space stations to come (by the mid ‘80s), and there are poems and commentaries on the occasion of the landing, both for and against. (Buckminster Fuller: FOR. Jesse Jackson: AGAINST.) It is, in short, a totally fascinating time capsule view of the mission and of America at the moment of it. But since there are so many sources out there, especially this week, for understanding what Apollo was and how it worked, and for ideas about what it did or didn’t mean, I thought that I’d share from the paper something a little lighter: some advertisements, which provide their own odd, narrow window into the period. I hope you’ll enjoy them, and perhaps even join me in raising a horn of mead and saying, “Thank you, Norway!”


tim b said...

These are great. Might want to include blog link on FB postings, tho.

Timo said...

I wonder if Jesse Jackson was thinking of this


in his "against."

Anne Mollegen Smith said...

It was a great triumph and Americans were especially glad to be proud after the devastating King and RFK assassinations of 1968 and the Vietnam quagmire. I saw a lot of the moonlanding coverage on our 9" black and white tv screen--I was at home, awaiting the advent of Amanda Wetherbee. Aren't the newspapers of the time spooky to see now? I had been working at Redbook, "the magazine for young mamas" at the time, and loved my job, but there was no maternity leave, paid or unpaid. (Women resigned and lost seniority, so if they were hired back, they had to work another year for eligibility to participate in the company pension plan and then five more years for their contributions to be vested.) Such policies were not unusual in 1969. Wives' salaries weren't counted as creditworthy toward mortgages--no wonder, you might think, since the salary gap was huge (around 48-55% in the rare instances of equivalent jobs. Five women had to sue the New York Times to win pay equity there, of course stunting their careers by doing so). In 1969, testimony of a woman who'd been raped wasn't accepted as evidence in any NY court unless there were witnesses to back her up--her word alone simply didn't count legally. So for the nascent women's liberation movement, the "small step for a man, great leap for mankind" statement kinda' clanged in our ears, but most of us quickly put that out of mind. I still love and am thrilled by the Apollo adventure. But the warm and fuzzy nostalgia also brings back other recollections.

Brian Floca said...

Important things to remember, Anne. (Or to learn, as the case may be.) Thanks for expressing them so well.

And, Timo, those weren’t his exact words, but, ah, yeah, that’s the gist. But don’t ask me about Bucky Fuller’s gist. The man can build a dome, but he can also murder sentence structure. And then there was Pablo Picasso, whose thoughts I missed at first, they were so succinctly expressed and small on the page: “It means nothing to me. I have no opinion about it, and I don't care.” So!

And of course it’s worth mentioning that the astronaut corps is more diverse now than it was in 1969. You may even be wondering, Timo, who was the first African American astronaut to walk in space, and where he was from. Happily I have the answer. Bernard A. Harris, from Temple, Texas.

Per Temple ad astra!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

"Memo to a great-grandson" - how presciently nostalgic. Love it.