On Lunar Landings...
and Scrapbooks.

by David Walker

Republished from the Sept. 1999 issue of Beyond Magazine, see footnote.
Although only written 10 years ago, the modern technology mentioned is already out of date!
Republishing the article is my own small tribute to Neil Armstrong and colleagues who inspired a young lad of 13.

The 30th anniversary [in 1999] of the first manned lunar landing reminded me that I kept a scrapbook of the Apollo missions as a thirteen year old. This scrapbook was gathering dust in the attic so I brought it down and browsed through the many press cuttings that I kept.

A 1969 fading UK newspaper brings back some memories!

I greatly enjoyed re-reading some of these accounts as they happened, especially those on the later Apollo 13 mission, which seemed much more involving than the recent 'looking back' accounts in the media.

Whereas nowadays the teenager is surrounded with technological wonders they probably take for granted like video recorders and computers, this was not the case in 1969. The compact audio cassette, pocket calculators and video recorders were some years away.

Computers were large mainframes and rarely seen by the public. 'Log' tables and slide rules were the tools of the trade of the school student studying science in the sixties and most of the seventies. So the space race was probably held in much more awe then, than the almost routine missions nowadays to dispatch ever more sophisticated satellites and robot vehicles to far flung parts of the solar system.

Despite the Apollo 13 mission crisis, by 1970 lunar missions were no longer full page news in the UK. The annual UK finance budget (on the left) was also main news.

As I browsed through the scrapbook I wondered how many youngsters keep scrapbooks nowadays of the science and technology news that makes the headlines. Compiling articles, photos, press cuttings etc. can create something of historical value that in many years time can provide a fascinating glimpse back for you, next generations of your family or future school classes. They can reveal not only the scientific stories of the time but how they were received and impacted on peoples lives.

The other stories in old newspaper cuttings can put headline news of the time in perspective. For example, in the same UK paper heralding the moon landing, there was a short piece on the launch of the first do-it yourself pregnancy test kit in the US. Such test kits are a commonplace item in drugstores nowadays, but interesting how these were newsworthy at the time as well.

With the advent of the Internet, home video recording etc. the 'paper cuttings and glue' type scrapbook can be complemented and made even more worthwhile with a 'multimedia scrapbook'. Video clips and audio clips can be added to the 'scrapbook' as there is a wealth of free information on the Internet or on TV programmes.

Subjects in the headlines now, that if compiled in a scrapbook, could provide a fascinating glimpse back in thirty years time when they may be commonplace. Some examples that spring to mind are:

  • Genetically modified food.

  • Cloning of animals and possibly humans.

  • Exciting new missions manned and unmanned to the planets.

  • The controversy over whether extra-terrestial life has been found in Martian rocks found on earth, or the recently found nanobacteria in earth rocks.

  • The search for new subatomic partices and the quest for a unifying theory for the laws of nature.

So why not compile a multimedia scrapbook of the news that makes you go 'wow' (or creates controversy), just as it did for youngsters like me thirty years ago?

Comments to the author David Walker welcomed.

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