By Gerry Moran
I’ll always remember the day I told my parents that the Americans were going to put a man on the Moon. And I’ll always remember the look on their faces, a look that said: “Our child is mad.” That’s how crazy the concept of putting a man on the Moon seemed back in the early 1960s, years before the event actually happened.
I’ve no doubt but that my parents considered referring me to someone – a psychologist? A psychiatrist? Don’t be daft. The someone in question would have been a priest. That never happened, however, because my parents soon learned that a Moon landing was on the cards and realised that their son hadn’t taken leave of his senses.
Years later, on July 2o, 1969 (24 years ago last month) I can still see the hazy black and white images of Neil Armstrong stepping on to the surface of the Moon as our family huddled incredulously around the telly watching history being made. And those of us of a certain age will always remember Neil Armstrong’s famous words: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’
Indeed those words have since become the stuff of legend. However, just before he re-entered the lunar module Neil Armstrong made the enigmatic remark: “Good luck, Mr Gorsky”. People at NASA thought it was a reference to some rival Soviet cosmonaut but they discovered that there was no Gorsky in the Russian space programme. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the “Good luck, Mr Gorsky” remark meant, Armstrong never elaborated but simply smiled.
On July 5 1995, in Tampa Bay, Florida, while answering questions after a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question about Mr Gorsky to Armstrong. With Mr Gorsky having died, Neil Armstrong felt he could finally answer the question.
In 1938 when he was a kid, Neil Armstrong was playing baseball in his backyard with a friend and hit the ball into the neighbouring yard beneath the bungalow’s bedroom window. The neighbours were Mr and Mrs Gorsky. As he picked up the ball, young Neil heard Mrs Gorsky shouting at Mr Gorsky: “SEX! You want SEX? You’ll get sex when the kid next door walks on the Moon!”
The entire room broke up with laughter. Neil Armstrong’s family confirmed that this actually happened. In the meantime here are some facts about our nearest neighbour:
The Moon is the same age as the Earth, 4.6 billion years old. Soon after the Earth formed, a rogue planet struck it a glancing blow. A large chunk of Earth and most of the planet vaporised into a cloud that rose more than 22,000 km above the Earth and condensed into what we now know as the Moon.
The Moon is 384,000 km from Earth and is slowly drifting away from us at the rate of 4 cm. a year.
Gravity on the Moon is one sixth that of Earth’s gravity which means that if you weigh 12 stone on Earth you’ll only weigh two stone on the Moon. So, forget Weightwatchers, get yourself to the Moon for some serious weight loss!
The manned Apollo missions to the Moon were achieved with less computer power than in a mobile phone!
Only 12 men have set foot on the Moon: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charlie Duke, Harrison Schmitt – who took the most reproduced photograph in history: the blue marble picture of Earth taken from outer space; asked why it proved so popular, Schmitt replied: “Location, location, location” – and Eugene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the Moon in 1972.
NASA aims to circle the Moon with a four-person crew (Mission, Artemis 11) in November 2024 and intends to send astronauts to the Moon in 2025, more than five decades after the historic Apollo missions ended in 1972.
Finally, there IS a Man on the Moon. Or at least the man’s ashes are. Dr Eugene Shoemaker, a geologist, taught the Apollo astronauts about craters. His dream was to fly a space mission but medical problems prevented him. After Dr Shoemaker died, his ashes were placed on the Lunar Prospector spacecraft which crash-landed on a Moon crater on July 31, 1999.