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In the Shadow of the Moon Journals

March 31, 2009

This post is going require two warnings. First, my zeal for the material may leave me with no choice but to curse even more than I normally do. Second, if you click on the ‘read more’ link, you are going to say goodbye to your day. You might think I’m full of it, but what I’m about to show you is worth every terrible consequence that may arise from what you’re about to do, which is your own fault for not listening to me about not clicking the link. And if you don’t click the link, then you’ll be sorry you ever thought the Internet was just for cute animals and porn and LOLcats.

Are you sure you want to do this?

Were We Giraffes or Gazelles? (2004) by former Apollo astronaut Alan Bean

Were We Giraffes or Gazelles? (2004) by former Apollo astronaut Alan Bean

Ok, fine, you asked for it.

This is the fucking LUNAR SURFACE JOURNAL. Don’t miss out on the collection of links you will never exhaust, with which I have effectively ruined your life.

I don’t know if you know this, but Apollo astronaut Alan Bean came back from the moon, like many astronauts, sort of unable to articulate his experience, having been permanently changed by what he saw. He eventually quit the space program in the early 1980s to become a full-time artist (he’d trained in art in the 60s). He pretty much exclusively paints pictures of the moon, like the one you see above, and seems like a pretty nice guy.

MySpace in Space: Apollo Astronaut Jack Schmitt basically inventing the webcam pose

MySpace in Space: Apollo Astronaut Jack Schmitt basically inventing the webcam pose

Why? Because take this, stupid facebook party pictures! This is pretty much every picture taken on the Apollo mission.

If you browse around, you will see pictures of the things that the astronauts left on the moon. You will notice that NASA is great at making spaceships, but web development is not their strong (space)suit. Nor are they all that great at archiving. Or at hanging on to stuff they should probably keep. I should disclose that when I first heard of ‘space archaeology’, I laughed. Out loud. Ridiculous! As if the space program wasn’t enough of a drain on our resources, you want to pour money into sending archaeologists into space? The first I heard of it was at the World Archaeological Congress in 2003, where some eager space junkies wanted to pass a resolution at the plenary session, pledging to do what we could to preserve the heritage of the space program. I thought it was silly but that’s because I was silly. I also thought that the stuff was being preserved and saved by NASA, but much of it is not. A lot of the technologies are incompatible with one another. A lot of bad decision-making takes place. For example, it was only recently (from what I can gather) they decided that instead of redeveloping each and every hand-held space tool in the toolbox so that astronauts can grasp them in their chunky supergloves, why not focus on redesigning the glove? So in fact, not only is the stuff not being preserved (although the objects on the moon itself benefit from automatically good preservation conditions), the space program would be wise to learn from its own past.

I have to admit that while I am still a little ambivalent about the cost of the space program, I feel guilty and remorseful for scoffing at space archaeology, and think the history of aerospace technology, of its accessories, spinoffs, accoutrements and archives should be taken every bit as seriously as any other kind of material culture. Everything from lunar modules to a photograph of Charlie Duke and his family to cold-war biscuit tins and Area 51 posters and bobble-head aliens. It all matters, and to be honest, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting (to me) than medieval pottery or stone axes. Although my love affair is still only blossoming, I am officially smitten with space junk.

You should check out the Space Age Archaeology blog, run by a woman in Australia who not only brings space age archaeology to the mainstream, but also brings the welcome combination of enthusiasm and self-effacing humour to archaeology. You will be lost on it for a while. Because also: Rocket Cakes!.

Another site here, called Nasawatch seems to be the work of a borderline crank, but the Moon needs cranks as much as the Earth does, so why not?

When you’re done with that, pick up Moondust, which is a great memoir of the Apollo missions, written by a journalist who set out to interview every surviving astronaut, and managed to get all but Neil Armstrong, who is famously private and seems to wish he could be something other than Hey Aren’t You That Guy Who Went To The Moon? My friend Kev gave me the book, and not-so-famously met Neil Armstrong at a corporate function because while he doesn’t do NerdCons, he does do corporate events.

And then watch In The Shadow of the Moon and your homework will be done, but you will also be like 90 years old when you get through all that. I’m still sifting through the tip of it and I’m terrified of the slippery slope ahead.

If you still have a life left, you can check out Yuri’s Night, a space party held around the world, and advertised on a website with a map layout that’s not quite effective at helping me locate my local space party, but there are apparently 147 of them around the world and on the International Space Station. If you’d gone to it in 2004, in LA, you’d have been at possibly the only party on earth whose guests included both Ray Bradbury and Lance from N’Sync.

I did get to try on the new space gloves in Washington last summer, but I still want to drive the fricking moon buggy, and someday, goddamnit, I fucking will. I’m sure I still have that number for the guy in the Johnson Space Centre who gave it to me when I said I was a journalist interested in space stuff. I think he was onto me about how I really just wanted to do donuts in the moon buggy, but I also think he understood.

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