Reaching for the moon

Recently I finally watched Apollo 11, the direct cinema documentary about mankind’s first steps on the moon. So many things about the moon landing fell into place while watching the documentary, like how ‘the Eagle has landed’ was simply a statement to describe that the landing of the vehicle called ‘the Eagle’ was successful. I had always thought this was some kind of fancy NASA code used to describe their successes, but alas, they were simply stating facts.

A lunar eclipse over Okambara Elephant Lodge, Namibia

There were other lessons I learned from this documentary too. Like, how the landing on the moon is a perfect metaphor for life. (Don’t take my words to literal when I say something is perfect, I tend to exaggerate this kind of point.) The documentary uses original footage shot, and audio recorded, by NASA in 1969 to show the different steps it took from roughly 3,5 hours before lift-off until the moment they (spoiler alert) landed safely back on planet Earth. And the documentary made me realise I never before considered the astronauts’ home journey.

How many times in life do we have a goal that we’re working towards, only to realise the journey isn’t quite over as soon as we accomplished that goal? We can work towards wooing a person we’re in love with to the point we’re in a  relationship, only to realised after we’ve accomplished that status that it takes commitment and loyalty to stay together. Or we’ve worked towards a promotion in work, only to realise that as soon as we’ve accomplished that title the hard work isn’t actually over yet. We might have finished our PhD, only to realise: ‘What next?’. 

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed safely on the moon. They got out, walked around for a good while, planted a flag, took some selfies, called with the president of the USA and got back into the Eagle. They had accomplished their goal: men had set foot on the moon. But their journey wasn’t over yet. They still had to get back home safely. Perhaps the most risky part of their journey was still ahead: crossing back into the Earth’s atmosphere at a whopping speed of 39762 km/h (24707 mph), withstanding temperatures of 2760 °C (5000 °F).

The trick is to not let this prospect get us down. It’s an essential part of the journey, and we can take all the right preparations to get home safely. In NASA’s case, that meant following the detailed flight plan, a document consisting of 353 pages outlining every single step needed to complete the mission. And when they did land, “the Mission Control Centre [was] becoming jammed with people, I’ve never seen this many people in the Control Centre at one time before. The Apollo 11 flag has been hung in the Mission Control Centre. And the [USA] flags are waving and the cigars are being lit up”, the narrator voiced. Time for celebration. Now their job was really done.