Once there were heroes who rode on flame-roaring rockets to another world. Full Moon celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first human flight to the Moon.
Artist/photographer Michael Light spent five years sorting through some 32,000 photographs taken by the astronauts themselves most of them never published and has selected 129 images that depict our journeys to the magnificent desolation of the Moon.
And they are our journeys, not merely the missions undertaken by 21 astronauts, not merely the program in which nearly half a million men and women worked for almost ten years. All of us participated in the Apollo missions, all of us were thrilled by the sights and sounds of men from Earth exploring a world that is a quarter million miles away.
The book is a treasure, the photographs a monument to humankind's ability to dream vast dreams and then make them come true. And, as Andrew Chaikin's thoughtful essay points out, once we began to see the Earth from the distant shores of the barren and alien Moon, none of us could ever think of our home world as anything but a beautiful, fragile, precious island of life set in a cold and utterly indifferent infinity. By reaching the Moon, we finally began to appreciate our own Earth. The Apollo astronauts' photographs of the big blue marble were an enormous stimulus to the environmental movement.
Two of the photographs from the Moon hit me especially hard. Both come from the final lunar mission, Apollo 17. The first shows the lunar landing module on the ground near the base of a mountain system called the North Massif. Taken from two miles' distance, the image captures the loneliness, the distance, the realization that the Moon is totally different from any place where humans have planted their footprints before. The second shows astronaut Gene Cernan, tired and grimy with lunar dust, after a long hard day of exploring on the Moon.
They were heroes, sent to the Moon by politicians who have not seen fit to carry on the brave endeavor they began. But there are other heroes waiting here on Earth, in schools, in cradles, even unborn as yet. They will return to the Moon and begin a new chapter of human exploration and adventure. Full Moon will help to inspire them to heroic futures. ¦Ben Bova's latest novel is Return to Mars, the long-awaited sequel to his 1992 best-selling Mars.