It was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing last Saturday. I had to Google it, but the day Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind was on the 20th of July 1969.
I’ve always been fascinated by the moon. Especially now that I live in an apartment with an east-facing view, so I get to see the full moon rise from in and around the Menlyn sign every month. Which is pretty spectacular.
(The moon, not the sign).
So when I picked up a flyer for the Star Sailors opening at The Viewing Room, which was going to take place on the 20th, I felt like I needed to go and check it out.
This is even more so the case because, as insane as it sounds to other people, I am actually quite skeptical about the moon landing. As much as I’ve tried to rationalise it.
Also, my friend Katja’s invitation to go to the same opening meant that at least I’d have the opportunity to vent my conspiracy theory to somebody else on the day.
How I Experienced the Anniversary of the Moon Landing
With a Lot of People
The orange St. Lorient building just off Brooklyn Circle, where the The Viewing Room is, has always been a bit of an enigma to me. Maybe it’s the colour, the sculptures on the roof, or its juxtaposition to the random assortment of shops in the Cherry Lane centre on the opposite corner.
I remember going there once for an art exhibition a long time ago. At the time, I wondered who designed it, and who came up with the idea to combine an art gallery and a bridal dress fitting boutique. And make it orange.
When I arrived, it was clear that it was going to be busy. I caught a glimpse of Katja’s blonde hair and her coral/orange jersey as I drove past to find parking. The amount of people around her, and the fact that she was standing outside, actually said everything about how packed it was going to be.
There were so many people that we had to walk up the stairs en masse to The Viewing Room, which is on top of the ground floor bridal boutique. All on thick glass paned stairs, which all of a sudden didn’t feel so secure.
(Walking up these stairs surrounded by orange tinted glass and hanging artworks it also quite an experience, especially when someone questions out loud how safe the stairs really are).
In the actual exhibition corridors and room, it was even more crowded. So many people. Warm. Limited oxygen. Luckily they eventually switched on the aircon, so getting to see some of the art was possible, if difficult.
By Thinking About What Actually Happened
I lost Katja, her boyfriend Roelof and her mom somewhere in the crowd at some point. Mostly because I think they decided to make a quick exit from the overwhelming hoards of people all trying to look at pictures on the walls and not get too close to each other (which was challenging).
I managed to look at some of the art pieces, like Carl Jeppe’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man against the moon, and some other interpretations.
A lot of drawings, mainly. Some which commented on the actual moon landing, but more of them just representations of the moon itself.
(One line from a paper artwork of the moon phases stuck with me: “She was like the moon, a side of her was always hidden”. I felt like I could relate.)
But it was only when I got to a TV at the other end of the entrance corridor (away from the crowds) that I actually got to see some footage of the moon landing, and to think about what it must have been like to witness this event taking place on TV.
(Or if you were in South Africa, hearing it on the radio).
It’s all mind-blowing and amazing, but here is where my skepticism comes in: why hasn’t anyone walked or done anything else on the moon since?
By Taking a Look at the Footage
Seeing JFK speaking on mute in the video presentation, without a 1950s microphone technology affected accent, made me think even more about how monumentous this event actually was.
Actually, when we arrived, and were struggling to find our way/breathe, in the crowd, Roelof had assured me that the moon landing actually did happen.
As someone who is very knowledgeable about history, he assured me that the only reason that it just hasn’t happened again because it was a Cold War tactic. So, to my understanding, it didn’t need to be repeated because the point had been made.
And clearly, the point was made abundantly clear, judging from the number of little American flags waving in the control room after the landing and the step/giant leap had taken place.
(Side note: seeing how ridiculous the astronauts looked when moving around the surface of the moon is hilarious).
I mean, I don’t doubt that it was all possible, and it looks real enough. But again, why has no one done it again? Was walking on the moon just once really enough?
By Escaping to the Roof
I eventually found everyone up on the roof, after examining the footage of the Lunar Module, and the Lunar Rovers. While wondering how the Rover stays on the ground while the astronauts bounce around awkwardly on their tip toes when they try to walk.
It was a relief to be outside, and get away from the packed room. Even though it’s always awesome to be at an art opening that is so well supported.
On the roof, conversation shifted from conspiracy theories and the moon to military history in Pretoria and the ruins of Wonderboom fort. Our conversation must have sounded really interesting because a lady who had also come up to smoke a cigarette interrupted us to find out where the ruins we were talking about were.
(For anyone who is interested, you can see the ruins of an old brick fort on top of the hill at Wonderboom Nature Reserve in Pretoria North).
While we were talking, I was also appropriately taking in the view of the surrounding hills, and Klapperkop hill (where there is also a fort). I realised I’d never really looked at the hill from this particular angle before.
Even if the view was mainly made up of Cherry Lane, with just the signal tower in the background.
By Still Feeling Confused
At some point, even though it was nice up there, it was time to leave the roof. And to not go back into the viewing room (even though there were apparently astronauts there).
After leaving, I thought, why do I even care so much about wether the moon landing actually happened or not?
To be fair, it isn’t even about whether or not it happened. I think it’s perfectly possible, as all the footage and other evidence would suggest to any other non- obsessively analytical person. I just think so much about it is weird.
And so even with all of the reassurance, and video footage, I’m still stuck, and this is why: you would think that with all of the technological developments that have happened over the last 50 years that someone would have done something else besides leave a footprint on the surface, right?
It just doesn’t make sense to me. Even though considering how much I love looking up at the moon, and what humans are getting up to on earth, maybe it’s a good thing.
What do you think about the moon landing, and conspiracy theories? Let me know in the comments.