When I saw In the Shadow of the Moon, a movie recently reviewed by Kenny Yim in the Record, I wondered how differently it would appear to people in different age groups. Though the 10 moon-era astronauts are now all old men, those of us who worried about them from the ground as they were launched apparently feel closer to them and the value of what they did than did your reviewers. As much as they may point out on film that they were lucky to be where they were when they were, they were far from the ordinary people implied in your review. These were the finest of our test pilots, chosen for their exceptional skill in flying and for their bravery.
We haven’t sent people to the moon in 35 years now, and almost all of today’s undergraduates were born long after we stopped the Apollo program. Perhaps my own view is revealed and colored by the fact that I am writing this letter from alongside Cape Canaveral, where tomorrow Pittsfield-native Stephanie Wilson is the astronaut who is carrying a couple of Williams College banners aloft for us, along with her main task in manipulating a robotic arm to enlarge the International Space Station. We hope that astronaut Wilson will visit us in Williamstown during the next few months, as she did after her previous space-shuttle launch last year.
My own review of the movie, for the journal Science, expresses some qualms, but overall I found In the Shadow of the Moon showed interesting reminisces and fascinating movie footage of an era that thousands of years from now will perhaps still be remembered as the major glory of humanity. As for the geopolitical importance of the moon-landing program in the Soviet-American competition in the 1950s and 1960s, which we discuss whenever I give Astronomy 338, and which was widely recalled in the recent 50th anniversary on Oct. 4 of the launch of Sputnik, the importance of the Apollo’s successes cannot be overstated.
Jay M. Pasachoff
Professor of astronomy
from Cape Canaveral, Fla.