Tune in this afternoon for a broadcast of Walter Cronkite's historic coverage -- in real time, just 43 years delayed.
Did you miss the moon landing because you were too high, too busy, or not yet born? Or perhaps you recall it well but memories have begun to fade. Well, through the time-travel powers of the Internet, you can tune in today, the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, and watch it "live," or rather, delayed.
Beginning at 4:10 EDT this afternoon, Kottke.org will spool Walter Cronkite's live CBS News broadcast in the "real time" of 1969. (He's done this on July 20th on his site since at least 2009.) Of course, the suspense will be gone (we all know how it turns out), but there's even a cute old-tiimey TV to help capture that 1969 spirit. The schedule is as follows:
Moon landing broacast start: 4:10:30 pm EDT on July 20
Moon landing shown: 4:17:40 pm EDT
Moon landing broadcast end: 4:20:15 pm EDT
Moon walk broadcast start: 10:51:27 pm EDT
First step on Moon: 10:56:15 pm EDT
Nixon speaks to the Eagle crew: approx 11:51:30 pm EDT
Moon walk broadcast end: 12:00:30 pm EDT on July 21
Jason Kottke, the blog's founder and author, urges that viewers tune in for at least the landing segment, which lasts about 10 minutes, and the first 10 to 20 minutes or so of the moonwalk.
The CBS News broadcast was a technological triumph in its own right. As Kottke writes, "It's almost more amazing that hundreds of millions of people watched the first Moon walk *live* on TV than it is that they got to the Moon in the first place." As Alexis Madrigal tells it, in his piece about the California space station the broadcast routed through:
The first trip to the moon is known as a technological triumph, and rightly so. Traveling 238,000 miles, landing on another celestial body, and returning to the Earth is no small feat. But the Apollo 11 mission might have been the single most successful media event in history. Not only did Neil Armstrong say, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," but people across the globe saw him do so live. In the moments before Armstrong actually stepped on the moon, the chatter between Buzz Aldrin and Earth was not only about the moon, but about lunar media production.
"You've got a good picture, huh?" Aldrin asked as Armstrong began to descend down the ladder. "There's a great deal of contrast in it, and currently, it's upside-down on our monitor, but we can make out a fair amount of detail," Bruce McCandless confirmed from NASA's command post in Houston, before dishing out the correct aperture settings for the camera to help the astronaut out. "Okay," Aldrin replied, and Armstrong got to the foot of the ladder.
It was at this moment that something unexpected happened. Apollo 11's transmission was being captured by multiple tracking stations simultaneously. Goldstone in the Mojave Desert had been expected to capture the broadcast and send it on to Houston and the rest of the world. But the best picture was actually coming from a tracking station in Australia called Honeysuckle Creek via the Moree Earth Station on that continent. So seconds before Armstrong touched the moon's surface, NASA made an on-the-fly switch to the Australian feed, which sent the broadcast up to a satellite and down to the earth station at Jamesburg, across the street from the Cachagua General Store, which at the time was also a saloon. A local character, Grandma DeeDee, told a Monterey County Weekly reporter that in the 60s, locals would "ride horses in the bar and shoot pistols at the bartender's feet." Another local, ne'er-do-well Grant Risdon, echoed the hijinx at the bar, fondly recalling a time "when the cops were afraid to come out here, because their radios didn't work on this side of the mountain. It was the last stand for the outlaws."
When the Christian Science Monitor visited the station the day before the Apollo 11 broadcast, the reporter and his photographer would have passed the store on their right, and then hung a left less than a quarter of a mile down the road into the Earth Station. "It has taken man thousands of years to reach the Moon, but it takes less than 20 seconds for a picture from the Moon to be distributed to millions of television viewers on earth," the story concluded.
The anniversaries of major historical events are funny moments. What does it mean to be at the same point in the calendar as we were when men stood on the moon 43 years ago? It's arbitrary but in some ways almost mystical. The date, July 20th, gives us some strange, loose tie to that time -- one we can never go back to, but that we'll keep observing with each passing year.