Tranquility Base

By Phil Plait | July 20, 2008 7:20 am

"Houston… Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed."

And with those words, mankind changed forever. We were no longer bound to one planet, one place, troglodytes adhering to the surface of Earth. We became a space-dwelling species.

Future historians will divide humanity’s time on Earth into two eras, and the demarcation between them was that moment.

Five more times we’d go to the Moon. The next four decades were spent in low-Earth orbit, limited circles with an inevitable return to the bottom of the gravity well. But we can’t help looking up, looking out, toward the stars. We’ve already begun our preparation to return to where we need to go, to space, to the Moon, to the planets. We’re still arguing over how to do it, and even if we should.

But I know we will. We have to. Millions of years of evolutionary pressure have made us explorers, engraving the need to seek things out in our genes and in our brains. We’ll go back. We’ll go to stay, and settle, and then move out again. The sky is full of places to go, enough to satisfy the needs and desires of a thousand generations.

It’s just a matter of time.

Happy anniversary, Apollo 11. And we thank you.

Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the Moon, from Apollo 11

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Piece of mind, Space

Comments (73)

  1. J. D. Mack


    I’ve seen that photo of Neil Armstrong’s footprint countless times, but in looking at it today, I realize that it raises some questions. Can you comment on the physics of how the footprint was made? For example, the area surrounding the footprint appears to be solid rock. Is the rigolith there, but not apparent in the photograph? Is the footprint an indention into the surface, or is it raised above the surface (as it appears to me eye). And why does it look like so solid – almost like it was formed out of mud?

    Hopefully, you know that I’m not trying to add to the Moon Hoax conspiracy. But then again, there are no stars in this photo ; ).

    J. D.

  2. justcorbly

    Humanity’s shining moment in my lifetime, and for many before that. It’s good to be proud of being a human on this planet. Certainly, little else that happened in the 20th century merits that.

  3. Thanks for remembering to commemorate this all-important anniversary. I was six years old when this happened, but remember it well. It was the beginning of my lifelong love of space.

  4. “…Nothing else remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

    Percy Shelly

  5. madge

    Happy Anniversary Indded! It still gives me chills to this day. Not much makes me proud of my species very often these days but when we set our minds to it we humans can be pretty damned awesome. This was our brief shining moment. I hope, like you, that there will be many more moments like this to come. Onwards and upwards.

  6. Pete

    PHil – thanks for the reminder – I get chills remembering watching the TV coverage of this.

    @JD – the print in indented – the light can make it look raised (and in fact, the middle portion shows the ribbing of the boot tread apparently higher than the undisturbed surface), and the print appears to be made in find dust – like when you press your hand into cakeflour – the fine particles make a detailed impression.

  7. madge

    @ J. D. Mack
    Regolith, defly regolith. The sharp shadows do give the illusion that the print is raised up but it’s just a trick of the light. What I love is that the print will still be there to this day :)

  8. J. D. Mack

    The lighting is clearly from the right. It cannot be from the left because that would put the shadows from the various particles to either side of the print between them and the light source. Therefore the print is a depression.

    I cannot see how you judge the surrounding surface to be solid rock. Without the print, it could be that, or it could be regolith. The print shows that it must be the latter.

  9. Yay!! Happy Birthday, Apollo 11.

    I was always sad to have been born after this happened. Is there such a thing as generation envy? Maybe when we take the next step I won’t feel that way any more!

  10. Blizno

    J.D., it looks just as expected to me. The surrounding material looks like a layer of dust that hasn’t been disturbed for a very long time. I can see pebbles and grains of various sizes in the material.
    The footprint looks like it’s pressed into the material although the center of the footprint appears higher than the front and the back. That makes sense if the astronaut lands a bit on the heel, rotates over the foot and then kicks off with a bit more of his weight on the toe of the boot.

    I read that there’s something about the super-fine dust that allows it to stay packed together in the absence of water but I forget the trick.

    I can’t see any stars either…hmmm…

  11. Blizno

    Nicole, there’s a video of an early flight in Europe by one of the Wright Brothers. Among the onlookers, there’s a very dapper man with top hat and cane who falls to his knee in amazement as the plane passes near. I suspect they felt much as those of us lucky enough to watch the first moon landing in black-and-white felt. The world felt a lot smaller and a lot more interesting after that.

  12. Andrew

    Phil, your comment that future historians will divide history right down the middle at the first moon landing reminds me of my favorite part of A Deepness In the Sky by Vernor Vinge. The protagonist learns while digging into archives of computer code that although everyone in his interstellar trading society assumes that the Zero point of their date system was the second that man first set foot on the moon, it’s actually off by around 15 megaseconds because what they’ve based everything on is actually the Unix timestamp.

  13. Vacuum cementing, I believe Blizno.

    Beautifully written, Phil. I got chills! Though it is cold in Northern Idaho at the moment.

  14. JD–

    First, it was Buzz’s footprint. :-)

    He wanted a pristine footprint so that geologists back on Earth could see how the dust on the surface behaves in situ. So he found a spot with no other footprints and made this one. The whole area was covered with dust. As he put his foot down some of it compressed (to form the print) and around the edge it got pushed up a bit like a crater rim. The Sun is coming from the lower right in the picture.

    This is written up in the ALSJ.

  15. RM

    Interestingly, not only does the imprint actually look like an imprint if you rotate it 180° (or just flip it horizontally, either way so the light comes from the left) but the surface suddenly looks a lot less solid too. All the tiny little “holes” that look make the surface look so much like eroded rock become little peaks, and the surface then resembles a much more powdery substance. It’s really quite a powerful effect/illusion.

  16. madge

    Am I wrong or was the first EVA done on the 21st, the day after the landing?

  17. Thomas Siefert

    The footprint only appear to stand out because the lighting on the photo comes from the bottom right. Your brain is programmed to see objects lighted from above. To see the footprint as an indent, just turn your monitor upside down :-) or better yet right-click the picture download it and rotate it in a photo editor.

    Almost all graphics on computers are given a 3D look by using an imaginary light source located up-to-the-left.
    Just look at the “Submit Comment” button at the bottom of this page. The top and left edges are both white and the bottom and right edges are dark grey, the button appears to stand out.
    Now look at the box where you can type your comment, the colours of the edges are opposite that of the button and it appears to be indented.
    That is the key to make user interfaces on a flat screen appear the way you want to.

  18. oldamateurastronomer

    “Houston… Tranquility Base here… the Eagle has landed.”

    Every time I hear or read those words I tear-up, mainly because I finally realized that representatives of mankind had arrived on another world.

    I was a graduate student at the time and can’t remember if I heard those particular words live, but I did watch while Armstrong first set foot on the moon.

    If and when we awake from our present nightmare, I hope whomever is our next leaders takes an active role in helping NASA or whomever to get us back there again!!

  19. Lem

    Truly a momentous event, but..

    Phil, I don’t think that we suddenly stopped living in caves 39 years ago.

    We ceased being troglodytes (in the literal sense) thousands of years before this event. While troglodyte can be used to mean “backward and brutish”, it’s in opposition to the descriptive phrase “adhering to the surface of the Earth”.

    For that matter, I don’t think we’ve managed to stop being backward and brutish yet – so your metaphor fails in this sense as well.

  20. JD-

    If I remember correctly, the dust looks and, to a certain extent, acts like “mud” because lunar dust grains have sharp edges and surfaces and grips each others much more than earth dust particles which are continuously eroded, rounded when knocked around by the wind, water or other agents of erosion.

  21. It definitely is the most astounding achievement by humans till date and it ll be special for eternity because it was the first step towards galactic colonization. Wrote in my blog about it today and funny how I used the same image, there’s something abt that footprint that just makes me smile everytime.. Simply brilliant.. and Phil, you rock man..

  22. Rowan

    Humans are amazing.

  23. kvenlander

    I remember the Apollo flights too. Now I’m trying to instill that awe in my kids with the fantastic pictures streaming to us from ALL over the system. But I wonder if they will grow up kind of blase about those? Like they’ve *always been around*. I hope not.

    But lets not get carried away with the spacedwelling species stuff. We’ve dipped our toe into this pool. Civilizations and empires on the planet have gone to achieve amazing things for thousands of years – and then disappeared. Historians will only write about Apollo as a pivotal point if something grows of it, not if it remains a high point of Cold War spending and national chest beating.

  24. amphiox

    It will only be important if we go forth. If we don’t, if we huddle on this little world and one day disappear, as all that so huddle eventually must, then it will mean nothing. A footnote, if someone comes after us to even remember at all.

    First steps are momentous only if there is a second. So let us make sure there will be a second, and a third!

  25. This just shows you what we can do when we set our collective minds to it. Happy Anniversary Apollo 11!

    I’d love to see our species reach beyond low earth orbit again.

  26. Wow Phil, it is really funny how the eyes can plays tricks on your mind. I too had always thought that image looked like the footprint was raised, and I spent several minutes trying to make it look like an indentation, and trying to see which way the light was coming from (and getting it wrong). As soon as I read your followup comment with the correct direction of the light, I looked again, and boom, the footprint became an indentation.

  27. Big Frankie

    On this date, in 1969, my dad’s Force Recon team made it back to base from a “fairly rough” patrol, just in time to listen to the landing on military radio. He said it was one of his high points in Viet Nam. My mom was in the Navy, in San Diego, and listening to it on the radio as well.

    For the record, no matter how hard I try, I can’t make the footprint look raised, even if I rotate it. It just always looks like an indention to me. I do find the lack of stars suspicious, though.

  28. CanadianLeigh

    “I was always sad to have been born after this happened. Is there such a thing as generation envy? Maybe when we take the next step I won’t feel that way any more!”

    As great as it was to witness “mans” first step on another world, I would be happier to see our next steps into space. If you have ever watched “The Right Stuff” you will note that the closest women got to space was by marrying an astronaut. In fact there were very few women scientists or engineers in North America at that time. If there is anything that my generation can be proud of it is the breaking down of the race and sex barriers that held back so many of our generation. There is much yet to be done for sure, however smart young ladies like yourself are proof we are on the right track. Who knows, maybe Nicole will be manning a telescope mounted on the Moon or even further out in the solar system.
    I envy you for the discoveries yet to be found by your generation of bright young scientists. I can only read books and magazines to catch a glimpse into the future you have ahead of you. Who knows for sure what “footprints” you will make in the pursuit of knowledge.

  29. Jeffrey Cornish

    At the SciFi cons I go to we have music (called due to typographical happenstance, filk)

    We have songs about most everything.

    And there is a very special song, that when it’s sung, my heart is in my throat. Some insist on standing at attention when singing it. But we sing it so the event will be remembered.

    I highly recommend the CD this recording is on, ‘To Touch the Stars’ by Prometheus Music
    or, to spare Prometheus Music’s servers a bit


    Worlds grow old and suns grow cold
    And death we never can doubt.
    Time’s cold wind, wailing down the past,
    Reminds us that all flesh is grass
    And history’s lamps blow out.

    But the Eagle has landed;
    tell your children when.
    Time won’t drive us down to dust again.

    Cycles turn while the far stars burn,
    And people and planets age.
    Life’s crown passes to younger lands,
    Time sweeps the dust of hope from her hands
    And turns another page.

    But we who feel the weight of the wheel
    When winter falls over our world,
    Can hope for tomorrow and raise our eyes
    To a silver moon in the opened skies
    And a single flag unfurled.

    We know well what Life can tell:
    If you will not perish, then grow!
    And today our fragile flesh and steel
    Have laid our hands on a vaster wheel,
    With all of the stars to know

    From all who tried out of history’s tide,
    A salute for the team that won.
    And the old Earth smiles at her children’s reach,
    The wave that carried us up the beach
    To reach for the shining sun.

  30. KC


    Depends were you were – and what time the mission was using. Without Googling I can’t be of more help. I remember the landing (“Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. ” “Roger Tranquility base. You have a lot of guys turning blue down here.”) I remember being sorely disappointed that they wouldn’t actually step on the moon until late that night,because I knew there was no way I could stay away for it. And I didn’t.

  31. ND

    To honor this day, here are some A11 moon pictures which most people probably have not seen:
    Buzz leaving the LEM for his first step on the moon.
    Looks like they forgot to remove the duffle bag from studio set before filming 😉 You can also see the landing pad probes bent upwards as a result of the landing.

    Here’s another shot of Buzz coming out of the lem.

    Here’s another shot of the dirty laundry :)

    Here’s more info on the bag.

    Here’s the plaque they left on the moon and where it was stowed on the lem.

    Stars? In this image you can see points of light in the sky portion of the image. At first I thought maybe the brighter stars were caught in the apollo photos. But if one checks the shadow of the lem, there’s a bright spot there as well. Probably cosmic rays hit the film.

    Here’s Buzz taking out some scientific instruments from stowage.

    Here’s Buzz carying the equipment. Looks like all Armstrong did was walk around and take pictures :)
    Here’s a sequence of images of Buz deploying the instrument. The last image is probably most has seen.

    An “upside-down” lem

    Earth, as A11 is returning towards reentry. Picture yourself hurtling towards Earth in this picture instead of orbitting it.

    The source of the images is

    Additional images from the Apollo missions. They’re not large scans but more like catalogs of the film canisters from the missions:

  32. KC

    I don’t feel very much like celebrating this anniversary of man’s landing on the moon 39 years ago. Were I a drinking man, I’d be deep in the cup this afternoon. No, I don’t think historians will remember this date, or that we were the first to ever burst upon that silent sea. They will remember those who come later, who actually settle the moon. That the first man set foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969 will be an obscure footnote, known only to a few historians that are mostly ignored.

    This day should have been observed with a live broadcast from the Sea of Tranquility, relayed via the nearest moon base. Commentators should be nattering about plans to have all living Apollo astronauts on hand at the 40th. Instead, we talk of maybe – if we’re lucky – returning to the moon ten years from now.

    We’ve done a lot of talking during these last thirty nine years.

    We held the moon in our grasp and walked away. I can’t remember July 20th, 1969 without thinking of that. I just don’t feel like celebrating. Not one little bit.

  33. Well said, Phil!

    Happy Anniversary Apollo 11!

  34. Gary Ansorge

    All progress is begun with baby steps.
    So, we begin,,,

    A thousand years from now, a space dwelling tribe will likely wonder what all the fuss was about, how people could even disagree about settling the High Frontier. From their lofty point of view, it could be obvious that a successful species must either grow or die. Only time will tell if WE are a successful species but I believe(with some evidence) that we are.

    I wonder how big our type II civilizations GDP will be, in 1000 years?
    Straight line projections anyone?

    GAry 7

  35. IBY

    Happy Anniversary of Apollo 11!!!
    And amen to what Phil said. :)

  36. It seems like just yesterday I was going through the preliminary work of starting my brief and horrible stint in grad school at the University of Delaware: getting the lay of the land, finding housing, figuring out what my schedule would be. And all the while in the Summer of 1989 there were special observances of the 20th anniversary of the first Moon landing, all with an overtone of sadness and shame that we had been away for so long. Nineteen more years have passed and we’re still not back. We’ve done a lot since then, but we have still done little to earn the name “space dwelling species”, let alone “spacefaring species.”

    Maybe a new space race with China will change that. We’ll see.

  37. Grand Lunar

    ” We’re still arguing over how to do it, and even if we should. ”

    For me, there is no question that we should go to the moon.

    Sure, we’ve been there and done that. But there’s still so much left to do.
    The moon can serve many purposes in our future.

    Some claim it’s impossible.
    As Von Braun once said, impossible is often just the lack of will to do it.

  38. Davidlpf

    Happy anniversary apollo 11.

  39. quasidog

    Awesome. Now lets get back there.

  40. Nathanial Burton-Bradford

    Yes – an awesome achievement…

    Just think – out of all the many thousands of generations that have gone before us and all the potentially millions of generations yet to come, it was during OUR time on that balancing cusp of history that this uniquely defining event took place…

    Happy anniversary apollo 11

  41. Pisces

    I remember thinking after the first moon landings that mankind had at last become an interplanetary species… never occurred to me that we would simply stop going! Thirty nine years later we’re planning to go to the moon as if it were our first time, while budgets for weapons and war take precedence over money allotted to science and exploration.

    If we’re going to make a sirius effort of space exploration, we’re gonna have to put aside our petty differences on Earth and GET DOWN TO IT (or in this case…up)!
    The universe awaits us outside our door while we argue over who created it!

    Happy Anniversary Apollo 11…lets hope that you were indeed the first step in our giant leap into the Cosmos.

  42. J. D. Mack

    Thank you, everyone who answered my question. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought there was anything funny going on. I knew that there was a good explanation, I just was curious what it was.

    Thomas Siefert, special thanks to you! When I flipped the photo 180 degrees, it look exactly as you said – clearly an impression with lots of loose material around it.

    J. D.

  43. amphiox

    We say that exploration is in our blood, but is it really? Of all the people who ever lived, how many individuals were actually explorers? And how many of those went away somewhere and were never heard from again?

    Of those that succeeded, how many were motivated at least in part by the potential for personal gain?

    If Columbus and his fellows had found North America to be a barren rock, devoid of life, water and breathable air, would others have followed? Maybe, but possibly not, and definitely in far fewer numbers.

    If Apollo 11 had landed on a moon made of gold, or oil, or water, or were greated by Lunarians bearing gifts, we would have more than a Moon colony today. We would have had a Treaty of Lunar Independence circa 1995, maybe even preceding by a war, and a new member of the United Nations.

    I am not surprised, or saddened, that after Apollo we did not go back. The race had been focused entirely on getting there first, to show up our political rivals. We were spurred ahead by that motivation, but we went for all the wrong reasons, and we were not prepared to stay, or go further. In 1969, we were not ready to be anything more than a “space-peeking” civilization.

    But today we know so much more, and we know that there is “gold” out there. And the moon is only a waystation towards the real prizes, Mars, the near-earth asteroids, and onwards to the outer solar system.

    If we do not go back now, and stay, I will be saddened.

  44. Chas, PE


    “Out ride the Sons of Terra,
    Far drives our thundering jets
    Up leaps the race of Earthmen
    Out far, and onward yet!
    But we pray for one last landing,
    On the globe that gave us birth
    Let me lift my eyes, to the fleecy skies,
    And the cool green hills of Earth”

  45. We became a space-dwelling species.

    I wouldn’t characterize us as space dewlling yet. Yet.

  46. @KC — You articulate very well why I don’t enjoy going to the National Air & Space Museum in DC. I find the fact that we haven’t been out of low earth orbit since 1972 quite depressing. Even still, I am proud of what we have accomplished. I just wish we had not stopped there. We are capable of so much more.

  47. bjn

    I don’t think human being will explore space, at least not in any meaningful way. It’s too big, we’re too vulnerable, and we don’t live long enough. It’s not “exploring” to spend your life on a generation ship to another solar system with a potentially habitable planet.

    It’s possible we’ll engineer an intelligent explorer that’s designed for interstellar travel. I think long before we come up with technology and energy resources that would make colonization of other planets in this solar system viable, beyond bold-gesture dabbling, we’ll decide that virtual adventuring is much more practical and democratic. When you realize that our understanding of the universe and its physical laws doesn’t really suggest that wormholes or faster than light travel are anything but interesting mind game diversions, that it takes an earthwide civilization of billions of people to support a handful of people in orbit around this planet now, and that we’d better be applying our technological resources to figuring out how to sustainably maintain human civilzation without destroying Earth’s ecosystems, I think our robotic or genetically engineered surrogates will do any real space exploration – if civilizations stable and far sighted enough exist in the future.

    As amazing and exciting as the lunar landings were, they really were barely do-able and were as much a propaganda battle in the Cold War as they were meaningful scientific missions. The Apollo astronauts are heroic explorers and their real stories tell us how close to the edge of failure they were on every mission. I love sci-fi but I’m very aware that it’s fiction.

    In my estimation, if humanity could figure out how to live in balance on this planet for, say, half a million years it might then have earned the right and the wisdom to reach ot to other worlds.

  48. Greg in Austin

    Where are the whales? 😉

  49. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    There is nothing inevitable in us (or future species) going to space. There are no strong economical or other forces that drives it. If it happens, it will happen as all development – by contingency.

    What is a more forced process is knowledge development, science. It isn’t enough of an incentive without the rest (say, economy) but it is at least focusing our ideas on a desirable future.

    Millions of years of evolutionary pressure have made us explorers, engraving the need to seek things out in our genes and in our brains.

    We are curious life, but that is quite different. The most successful (longlived) species are stable exploiters of a certain niche. And to a certain extent that is the impression I get from paleoanthropology, it was when humans exploited the new niche as hunterer-gatherers that we migrated around the world.

    If anything we have evolved to become tinkerers, most lately in farming as it has left tracks in our genes. (It has forced several instances of lactose tolerance, and enabled light skin variants with alternative D vitamin sources.)

    But mostly we see from our genes that we have evolved for social compatibility (immune system, among other things) and sexual compatibility. That would have put a damper on the exploration spirit, I think.

    a successful species must either grow or die.

    How do you measure success for a species in an evolutionary perspective if not as survival after selection? And in that case the static species, the “living fossils” are most successful. But only by contingency – their niches are preserved.

    Another, opposite, measure of success could be species divergence, that species spawns many descendant species. But again it is a matter of contingency – if a species have spawned a descendant by happenstance, the group is now twice as likely to continue speciating, the rich will be richer.

    But how is it with cultures? Can they be static, or do they have to change (“grow or die”)?

  50. madge

    @ ND
    Great images! Thanks for these :)

  51. richard

    The first words spoken when the LM touched the moon’s surface were not those you quote. Everyone gets it wrong. They were:

    “Contact light.”

  52. Tyler Durden

    Big Frankie said:

    “For the record, no matter how hard I try, I can’t make the footprint look raised, even if I rotate it. It just always looks like an indention to me. I do find the lack of stars suspicious, though.”

    Go outside during the daytime and look up.

    See any stars?

    No? Well, I say you’re lying. You’re not really standing on the Earth at all.

  53. bassmanpete

    On the subject of lighting, here’s a link to a close up image of a 12″ speaker:

    Depending on how you interpret the lighting, this can look as it should or the cone can appear as a mound with an indentation on top.

  54. khms

    I don’t think future historians will see the first moon landing as dividing history into two eras. Maybe the establishment of the first extraterrestrial colony, whenever that will be.

    However, while they will be debating about what date to use, some date nearby will divide history: the start of the Internet.

    The Internet is a big change that we followed through with. And it is big – at least in the same range as the development of the printing press, though one might argue even as big as the development of writing.

    One possible date: RFC 1 carries the date 7 April 1969. (

  55. Poetry, phil.


  56. I spent part of the day patiently jousting with some Apollo Hoax believers on another site until they no longer tried responding as every one of their objections was slowly and carefully debunked and directions given to various sites, including here, where any and all doubts they ever had would be removed. Most importantly, I spoke of the joy of being alive at that time and how, if they had been as well, they would understand why their belief in the hoax theories is so ridiculous.

    For me it was time well spent.

    I look forward to next year and the 40th anniversary. We should all have a huge celebration somewhere. Forget the fact that we haven’t been back since, just spread the excitement that we will return.

  57. dave

    Madge –

    “Am I wrong or was the first EVA done on the 21st, the day after the landing?”

    Depends on where you were living at the time, thanks to time zones… in the US the landing and EVA both took place on the 20th. Somewhere like Australia, they both took place on the 21st. In places like the UK, the landing took place late on the 20th and Armstrong stepped onto the moon at 3.56am the next day.

    3.56am *my* time… somehow, as a 10-year-old bitten by the “space bug,” I managed to keep getting my mum to let me stay up for “just another five minutes” till she gave up, cautioned me not to turn the TV up too loud, and left me to it… the first time I’d tried anything like that, the first time I’d stayed up so late in my life, the first time British TV broadcasted through the night *and* the first time a human stepped onto another world. Not bad for one night…

  58. Sarcastro

    Future historians will divide humanity’s time on Earth into two eras, and the demarcation between them was that moment.

    Why this and not Gagarin’s whistling of Родина слышит, Родина знает or his famous words “The Earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing.”?

  59. Madge, the EVA occurred at 10:56 EDT, July 20. So, if you were in Britain at the time, that would have been on the 21st, very early in the morning hours, 2:56, I think.

  60. Mitch Miller

    I’m still not sure why we need to explore space. Most people seem to be making an argument similar to:

    Step 1: Go to the moon.
    Step 2: ????
    Step 3. Profit

  61. dave

    Michael L

    It would’ve been 2.56am Greewich Mean Time, but it was summer time so you need to add an hour.

  62. amphiox

    Are we so certain that all the living fossils survived because of the contingency of stable niches? We don’t know enough about the evolutionary history of most of them to say for sure. Not all the ancient coelacanths were deep water fish, many were shallow water species, and we don’t know which one the modern species descended from. Same for the modern nautilus. And for many of these species, we only know that the physical anatomy stayed constant. We have no idea how much their biochemistry and behavior may have changed. Sharks have not changed their physical shape much in hundreds of millions of ears, but what about their senses? How old is the lateral line? Did ancient sharks have as keen as sense of smell? The hammerheads for example, are very young.

  63. Plasmafrag

    I guess it’s appropriate that I went to the Kennedy Space Center on the 20th. And hey, the 21st is my birthday, too!

  64. ND Says: “Here’s another shot of Buzz coming out of the lem.

    There appear to be stars in this picture! I know he mentioned cosmic rays further down in his post, but if you look just to the left and above the RMS quad you’ll see two bright specks. They don’t appear to be artifacts since it takes some magnification to see them and their edges are still soft. They are also of different brightness.

    – Jack

  65. RL

    As long as the records exist, OF COURSE, historians will remember the day that humans first set foot on the moon. After all, its a matter of no small debate when the first humans reached any part of the world. This debate happens when discussing spreading from Africa and to the North American and South American continents to…just about anywhere. Given the amount of documentation, historians will have it easy with this one. I’m not sure if it will be the dividing line between two halves (all by itself), but it definitely is the start of a new era.

    Another point I’d like to make, is that human migration and exploration historically happen in waves. It starts as a trickle, just a few, and then others follow. Sometimes the waves are separated by big swaths of time. The colonization of North America is an example. Whether you start with the Vikings or Christopher Columbus, there was a separation in time from the first explorers to the next round, and the next and then colonists. The same is true of space exploration and travel. And in this case, we’re talking about going to the fraking moon and stars, not just croosing the ocean in a boat (which used to be pretty difficult but not today). In the historical persepective 40 years is not that long of a time.

    So celebrate! Its a big start. Stop being so pessimistic.

  66. impulse

    Apollo 11 – my 11th birthday when this occurred. Especially thrilling as both NASA and I celebrate the completion of 50 orbits around the Sun this year.

  67. FlyFlyFly

    I`m still trying hard to figure out how these perfect , perfect footprints were laid by a 250lb. suited man, yet there is no blast crater left underneath a multi-tonne LEM module.

    Moon dust is Moon dust anywhere on the surface. If it can conform a footprint it can also move out of the way for a vectoring blast nozzle trying to land.

    oH! yea, the camera that was mounted on the LEM`s leg to get that close up of the first footstep on the moon surface without a blast crater anywhere to be found ?
    I can`t imagine it was more than 15 feet in radius away from the center rocket nozzle that put out over 10,000 lbs of landing thrust.

    I`m not sure how it survived not only the enormous heat of the thrust nozzle but the enormous sonic reverberations being that close in proximity. From outer space to landing, then take off again to docking the service module and then the astronauts would have had to perform a space walk to retrieve it in space because the LEM did not come home, only the space capsule it was docked to.

    Just saying if it were some kind of movie camera of that era with a direct link into the LEM, they would have had to have had a small TV recording studio inside which i highly doubt.

    If a man stood 15 feet from the rear side of a jet fighter engine his skin would melt, how did the celluloid film survive in a 1969 Hasslblad movie camera and anything plastic inside or out to make it work?

    Like they stated, the computer on board was no more powerful than a modern day pocket calculator, and i`m sure that was a truthful and accurate statement , but that`s all it was, perhaps not enough for a complex space flight or moon landing, but it was never the less still on board.

    I see like this, when a persons spouse makes themself become suspect and there is an answer for their every where abouts, that becomes believable to the mind and conscience for two reasons, self protection, and not having to deal with the real truth.
    As time goes by and eventually when that person does come forward and the truth is found out, even their own words and self-confessions can`t be believed, the mind won`t allow it, it`s like your being told an April Fool`s joke, the lies and humiliation have been believed and adjusted to for way to long.

    I think the Russian`s beat us to the Moon, we lost by default through deciept and Ego.All they had to do is stay home and let us do it. But then there was the first Thanksgiving, Custer, The American Indian, Kennedy, Johnson,Viet Nam, Nixon, Clinton? Why not the Moon? They all put allot of people to work.

  68. hallman

    All truth passes through three stages.

    1. First, it is ridiculed.

    2. Second, it is violently opposed.

    3. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

    Arthur Schopenhauer

  69. hallman

    As David McCowan more articulately explains:
    …… main reason that people cling so tenaciously, often even angrily, to what is essentially the adult version of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. What primarily motivates them is fear. But it is not the lie itself that scares people; it is what that lie says about the world around us and how it really functions. For if NASA was able to pull off such an outrageous hoax before the entire world, and then keep that lie in place for four decades, what does that say about the control of the information we receive? What does that say about the media, and the scientific community, and the educational community, and all the other institutions we depend on to tell us the truth? What does that say about the very nature of the world we live in?

    That is what scares the hell out of people and prevents them from even considering the possibility that they could have been so thoroughly duped. It’s not being lied to about the Moon landings that people have a problem with, it is the realization that comes with that revelation: if they could lie about that, they could lie about anything.
    -From, Wagging the Moon Doggie


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