The picture was really fuzzy. I remember that distinctly. Even for the days before cable television and crisp, clear reception, the picture stunk.
Still, it was there. You could see what was happening. And what was happening was so beyond exciting that we watched the fuzzy picture with incredible anticipation.
Two men landed on the moon. Then, they walked on the moon. And we saw it.
Fast forward 40 years, and more technological advances than in any 40 years prior, and we decide to crash a rocket into the moon to see if there is perhaps more water there than we had previously thought. I support science. I love anything space-oriented. Best of all, we’ll see a plume of dust when it hits as a second rocket follows it in and then crashes also.
OK. I’m in. I get up (it’s my day off), make a pot of Honduras Ocotopeque decaf and settle in front of the television for the show.
When I turned on the television, there was an animation of what we would see. It was pretty cool. From a 45-degree angle off the right side of the impact zone, a space contraption (I wouldn’t call it a rocket) goes into a crater and a huge plume goes up. Wow. This will be great. Then, the second space contraption goes through the plume and creates a second plume. WOW! Two plumes.
*thinks* “Wait a minute. What’s shooting this angle? There aren’t three space contraptions? We’re not going to get this angle at all.”
Next, the live shot came up. It was a full-screen, two dimensional view of the surface of the moon. No doubt, it was in color – but the moon is pretty much gray. Still, it was a solid shot with lots of craters visible. And it was straight on. “Well, not bad,” I thought. This will still be pretty good. The image began to get closer and closer. At first, I assumed it was shot from earth or, even better, from the Hubble. But as the surface of the moon and the craters got closer, I realized that the picture was from the space contraption itself.
“What about the PLUME? We can’t see the plume if the camera is on the contraption that’s gonna crash!”
But then, a moment of hope. Maybe the camera is on the second contraption. That’ll be even better. We’ll see the plume close up, then fly through the plume and then black. THAT will be awesome.
As the surface of the moon got closer and closer, the detail went away. “What happened to that crater? Where is that shadow on the side of…”
Then, white screen. A cut into a control room that looked more like a telemarketing center than the grand, mission control of the Apollo years. People looking at each other with “oops” expressions. Cut to a second room. 6 guys who my friend Scott Evans had already described on Facebook as “looking like they’ve been order a lot of pizza lately” looking at small computer screens, then each other, then standing up and applauding.
Applauding what? All I saw was a white screen! No plume. No impact. Nothing but a bunch of guys sitting in a room that looked like it used to be a hallway applauding, with semi-quizzical looks on their faces.
Call me old-fashioned. Call me nostalgic. But for the 40 years since I watched Neil Armstrong take that first giant leap for mankind, I expected a better presentation. I’m sorry. It was probably a monumental feat to make this happen, And I still applaud the rocket scientists who pulled it off. Still, next time, a little more sizzle, please.
I immediately went into channel surfing mode and, to my delight, found USA Network running “You Only Live Twice.” For those who cannot remember the premise – Donald Pleasance (the best Bond villain of them all) was stealing the space vehicles of the Soviets and the Americans in hopes of causing a war. The animation was so basic and cheesy. The rocket was a toy that was supposed to look real but looked like a real toy. The premise was implausible at best.
It was a far better show.