Fifty years ago, on July 16 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin were strapped inside the tip of a 111m tall rocket filled with 2,500 tonnes of kerosene and liquid oxygen. At 2.32pm this was ignited. If something had gone wrong on launch, the Saturn V rocket would have exploded with the force of a small atomic bomb.
As well as this rather worrying health and safety concern, the three astronauts carried the ambition of a nation and the hopes of the wider world. Their whole lives, years of training, focussed on this apex.
The brilliant Apollo 11 documentary from Todd Douglas Miller, still screening across the country to coincide with this anniversary week, uses restored archive footage to outline the mission in minute-by-breathless-minute detail. You are with the crew, hundreds of technicians and thousands of spectators on the scene as countdown commences, and as the rocket rumbles into the sky.
As it enters orbit, the voice of a medical officer reports the heartrate of the astronauts during blast off as they battled G-forces and faced either the ultimate ascension or total annihilation. The average resting heartrate for an adult is anywhere between 60-100 beats per minute. At this moment, Buzz Aldrin’s was 88.
Sitting in the cinema, I swivelled my wrist and my Fitbit blinked to show that my pulse wasn’t far behind. This morning on the commute to work it reached the 80s (but the train was running a few minutes late).
If you believe what they say, our political leaders can do absolutely anything… except admit they might make mistakes and be wrong sometimes
OK, these guys were chosen to pioneer new frontiers because they had the right stuff. They were sound enough in body and mind to keep calm and carry on to the moon, while the rest of us earthlings get stressed by what feels like ever-increasing irritants and frustrations.