MOONWALKING: It Was 40 Years Ago Today

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WASHINGTON POST: Only rarely — on major anniversary dates, like today — does he show up on television, and then only fleetingly. He hasn’t leveraged his fame for higher office or some grand cause, nor has he sold it willy-nilly. If the subject is Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon tends to turn churlish. He will defer, deflect or refuse to answer. When his little home town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, sought to honor him with a parade on the 25th anniversary of his moonwalk, Armstrong sent his regrets. He once pleaded to a newspaper reporter, 10 years after his feat: “How long must it take before I can cease to be known as a spaceman?” As if such a thing were possible. Or even desirable. It’s not fair to call Armstrong a “recluse,” as many accounts of his life after Apollo 11 invariably have. He’s no cosmic J.D. Salinger or Howard Hughes, manomoonsepia_1.jpgshunning the world out of spite or madness.

Yet for the 40th anniversary, Armstrong has once again carefully rationed himself. He told planners at the Smithsonian and NASA that he would speak at their events, but not as the keynoter, not at length and only in conjunction with other Apollo alumni. A book-signing at the Air and Space Museum featuring his Apollo 11 crew mates, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, was out of the question (Armstrong stopped signing anything some years ago when brokers began peddling bogus signatures on the Internet). Media interviews? Not a chance. “He’s always been this way,” says one person involved in planning the events. Carol Armstrong says her husband averages about 10 interview requests per month. He turns them all down, usually without reply (he did not respond to a request for this article). MORE

RELATED: NASA could put a man on the moon but didn’t have the sense to keep the original video of the live TV transmission. In an embarrassing acknowledgment, the space agency said Thursday that it must have erased the Apollo 11 moon footage years ago so that it could reuse the videotape. But now Hollywood is coming to the rescue. The studio wizards who restored “Casablanca” are digitally sharpening and cleaning up the ghostly, grainy footage of the moon landing, making it even better than what TV viewers saw on July 20, 1969. They are doing it by working from four copies that NASA scrounged from around the world. MORE

nasa_logo.thumbnail.gifRELATED: Forty years after astronauts set foot on the moon, America’s space program is struggling to find decisive leadership, clear-cut goals and consistent public support. Despite a flurry of celebrations commemorating the July 1969 lunar landing of Apollo 11 and a pledge from President Barack Obama, a self-described space geek, to reinvigorate the agency, U.S. manned space efforts remain in limbo. Federal budget constraints threaten to scuttle the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s current plans to spend more than $70 billion to build a new generation of rockets and space capsules to return to the moon after 2020. While alternate proposals promise lower costs and fewer technical risks, they continue to spark disputes with industry and government officials intent on protecting incumbent contractors. MORE

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