Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Wright Brothers & Apollo 11

I've been reading the excellent biography of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, "First Man" - it's the only authorized book about Armstrong's life in existence, and it's only been out a few years. Anything dealing with the space program has always deeply fascinated me - one of my main "comfort food" DVDs is "For All Mankind", a stunning montage of moon mission footage and shimmering Brian Eno music that I can watch over and over, engaging and uplifting my spirits like few other things. I feel so very lucky to have been alive to witness this event, the moment we first stepped onto another celestial body.

In the book, I stumbled upon a detail I had never heard about before: each of the three Apollo 11 astronauts had a small, lunch-size bag sized pouch called a "Personal Preference Kit" (PPK), a teflon-coated bag that could weigh no more than 5 pounds, contents included. These were meant for the astronauts to be able to bring personal momentos to and from the Moon. The discretion about the contents of the PPKs was left completely to the astronauts, and while some have even auctioned off items they took on the journey, very little is known about the contents of Armstrong's PPK. In "First Man", a detail jumped out at me, and literally brought a tear to my eye: Armstrong apparently made an arrangement with the National U.S. Air Force Museum, and had been given a small piece of wood from the propeller of the Wright Brother's famous 1903 flyer, as well as a 8x13 inch piece of muslin fabric from the left wing, to include in his PPK.

The deeply touching symbolism of taking those pieces of the first flying machine to the Moon and back, just leaves me with a huge grin and a soft glow in my heart.

They also left some interesting items on the moon (at the very last moment before shutting the hatch - they almost forgot, according to the book), including a pair of Soviet-made medallions honoring Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, as well as patches for Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, who had all died in a tragic launch pad fire incident.


dusty said...

Huge Respect to all involved in Man's greatest achievement. Thanks for posting.

I've given a couple of minutes thought to what I would have taken. My box would have included a strange pyramid shaped chunk of granite I picked up from the top of Ben Nevis (My own personal altitude record) ha ha,a piece of Oak I got from HMS Victory (Nelson would be proud), a CD of my band, a photo of my family and a small wooden box containing a lock of my dads hair I got when he died.

Just out of curiosity David, what would you take?

Marccella13 said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. (Sorry, catching up on all you've written since I "got sick" last week!)

When I was a little girl, i used to dream I could fly to the moon. I would lay in my bed and stare out the window and pretend that I could reach up and touch it with just the tips of my fingers. I joke with my Brood, that when I am gone, I would very much like them to make sure a part of me goes up there. Preferably my finger, so I can touch it, the way I used to imagine I could. A little morbid? maybe, but they think its funny.

gfinc said...

Niel Armstrong's co-pilot on that moon mission was Buzz Aldrin. His kit included a chalice of consecrated wine and consecrated host - with which he celebrated communion while in the cockpit of the Luhar Excursion Module in moon gravity.

murdoc said...

My question is why does everyone important die on the weekend?