Apollo 11 launched 39 years ago today. It was a Wednesday. July 16, 1969.
Space geeks like to talk about why the manned space program today doesn’t have the same cultural currency that it did 40 years ago. They talk about the drama of the cold war and the “race against Russia”, the sheer technological audacity of putting men into space and onto the moon for the first time and the perception that launches are now routine.
But I think that it’s mostly about the rocket. The Saturn V was such a bad-ass! At 363 feet tall, it was a monster with three tiny humans sitting on top of it. At 363 feet in height, it was 193 feet taller than Niagara Falls!
363 feet would be the approximate height of a 36 story building - a 36 story building filled with rocket fuel! When the engines on the Saturn V ignited it was like unleashing a primal force.
Another overlooked element has to be the flight suit. The Mercury and Apollo flight suits were otherworldly silver jump suits or white suits with cool mirrored sun visors. You put on a suit like that and you’ve got instant cred. The shuttle astronauts on the other hand wear golf shirts! Or even worse, rugby shirts! To be fair, they do wear orange flight suits that look kind of cool for ascent and re-entry but during their time in orbit they dress like models for Land’s End.
You want to generate more interest in the manned space program? A rocket like the Saturn V and a new wardrobe would be good first steps.