REVIEW: Everyone’s Gone to the Moon: July 1969, Life on Earth, and the Epic Voyage of Apollo 11 by Joe Cuhaj
Much has been written about the legendary flight of Apollo 11 and mankind’s first tentative steps into deep space. It’s often said that the world stopped, watching in awe as the crew of Apollo 11 completed their mission. It is true that in that moment, almost everyone had virtually gone to the moon as people around the world gazed in wonderment at the grainy black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong taking that first step onto the surface of another world. But that was a fleeting moment and just as quickly, the moment was gone– wars raged on, protestors filled the streets, and average Americans went back to their daily lives.
Everyone’s Gone to the Moon is a week-by-week journey through July 1969, one of the most pivotal months in human history – in space and here on Earth. This unique book follows the crew of Apollo 11 and NASA as they prepare for the historic first lunar landing alongside the major global events buried beneath headlines covering the historic space mission. Interwoven with the story of Apollo 11 are the events on our home planet that made an equally important impact on who we were then and who we are today: the Life of Prince Charles was threatened by a terrorist attack in Wales; the storm dubbed the Ohio Fireworks Derecho ripped through the Midwest, killing dozens; the assassination of Kenyan Economic Minister Tom Myoba (of which Barack Obama Sr. was a key witness) undercut a nation just learning to stand on its own; Senator Ted Kennedy was involved in a mysterious accident in Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts; ARPANET, the first real “Internet” was unveiled; Monty Python was born; John Lennon and Paul McCartney released “Give Peace a Chance” during escalated Vietnam War tensions; Midnight Cowboy stunned the Academy Awards; and much more.
Meanwhile, NASA was still scrambling. Everyone’s Gone to the Moon features little known behind-the-scenes stories of the moon landing like how NASA had to grapple with media, the technical issues that still plagued the lunar module, and how the prior crew of Apollo 10 suffered incredible itching from their spacesuits that needed correcting before Apollo 11 could even be launched.
This deep dive into the Apollo 11 mission’s most crucial weeks and the little-known and rarely remembered events occurring simultaneously back on Earth gives a vivid new perspective to the month that launched humanity into the future.
I read another book, “Space Oddities,” by this author a little over a year ago and couldn’t resist trying this one once I saw it. The blurb lists a lot of the interesting tidbits that are in it but believe me, there are a lot more.
The world might have watched when Neil Armstrong made “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” but not everyone was happy about it or interested. The world was rocked by protests, riots, and concerns that the money could have been spent more wisely for tackling poverty and racism. The approval rating Americans held for the space program was less than 50% and decreased as the decade went on. Once the Soviets had been bested for bragging rights, public interest plummeted, NASA’s budget was slashed, and the last three proposed missions were scrapped.
But yeah, what else was going on here on planet Earth in July? While news of the moon landing raised morale among the American POWs in North Vietnam, those soldiers in South Vietnam muttered that they had more important things to worry about. The Stonewall riots ended on July 1st, Reverend Abernathy led protesters to Cape Kennedy on July 15th to protest poverty and the amount of money being spent on the space program, the Newport Jazz Festival dissolved into a riot, and planning was continuing for Woodstock.
July 1st was almost the end of a project for six Congressional families to survive (for six days) on an official welfare food budget in order to get a glimpse of what people who had to survive on it all the time endured. “Space Oddity” was released days before the Apollo 11 launch. JoAnn Morgan and Jerry Elliott-High Eagle made history by being the first woman and first Native American in the firing room for an American rocket launch.
Riots were rocking Northern Ireland and El Salvador and Honduras engaged in a 100 hour war. On July 19th, John Fairfax became the first known person to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean and Gloria Diaz became the first Philippina to win the Miss Universe pageant. The first test of “Sesame Street did not go well but Britain embraced Star Trek. NASA was also managing Mariner VI and Mariner VII which provided close up photographs of Mars. And one particular Qantas flight got a close up view of the Apollo 11 space capsule reentering Earth’s atmosphere.
I learned a lot by reading this in depth look at the big and the small picture of events of that month. Some things were deeply personal to only a few while others took in broad issues that affected entire nations. Cuhaj gives lots of background information to explain the history behind events that are mentioned in a way that also brings them to life. B