Tele column 19th July 2019

On the 20st of July 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon and on the 14th of December 1972 Eugene Cernan and Jack Schmitt, as part of the Apollo 17 mission, became the last men to ever walk on the moon. I know where I was during the first walk, sleeping in my bed at 56 South Street. I had stayed up all night but eventually Morpheus took me away. I was gutted but I have no recollection of the last moon walk. I suppose that is for two reasons. Firstly, moon walking was becoming ordinary. Nothing new was happening. We had seen walking, driving and even golfing (Alan Shepard Apollo 14) it was becoming blasé and secondly, I didn’t know it was to be the last or I may have paid more attention. In total 12 men have walked on the moon and I doubt I could name half of them. The Apollo programme did come under justified criticism and it is an argument that stands true to this day. How can we spend so much money on space exploration when there I so much poverty and disharmony on planet earth? The writer and poet Gil Scott-Heron (whose dad was the first black player to play for Celtic) wrote a piece called ‘Whitey on the moon’ which asked that very question. The Vietnam war raged, and people went hungry throughout the duration of the Apollo project. Was it the right thing to do? Did it engender innovation? Did it encourage national pride? Is that a good thing? These questions remain unanswered, but I do know that even as a wee boy in Greenock the moon landings made me realise just how small earth is, just how unique our planet is, how precious it is. If it is unique and precious then maybe it is time we started looking after it better. Maybe that should be the legacy of the Apollo missions, not to go boldly but to be bold about saving our own planet.