It's been forty years since we landed on the moon. My family's somewhat unique experience of this moment in history came during the Central City Opera's production of "Die Fliedermaus." In the second act, apropos of nothing whatsoever in the operetta, a cast member came bounding on stage shouting, "The Americans have beaten the Russians to the moon!" It broke what tenuous grasp I had on the goings-on in front of me and put my mind immediately on what must be happening at Tranquility Base.
I didn't see it on TV, but I believed that it happened with all my heart. It wasn't until I was in high school that I started hearing all the conspiracy theories surrounding the possibility that this event never occurred, save the extravagant creations on some Hollywood sound stage. Then I saw "Capricorn One," about a government-created hoax of a landing on Mars. It gave me pause. Richard Nixon was president during the first moon landing. The guy from Watergate. If there were dirty tricks going on with the space program, why wouldn't it be on his watch?
I quickly put this notion out of my mind. I was always a NASA fan, and the idea of anyone at Cape Canaveral being involved in anything shady was unthinkable. These men were our best and brightest. They were the future. Then again, O.J. Simpson played one of the astronauts in "Capricorn One." Maybe it wasn't un-thinkable. It was hard to think about.
It just got a little easier. Recently, NASA confessed that they didn't have the sense to keep the original video of the live TV transmission of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In what could only be construed as a cost-cutting measure, they must have erased the footage years ago so that it could reuse the videotape. That's what we did with my son's kindergarten promotion, after all. But in a twist of fate that could have been scripted in Tinseltown, studio wizards are 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.
At least that's what they're telling us. I'll be looking for any telltale signs such as a moon rover that transforms into a robot, or Robert Pattinson playing the part of Neil Armstrong. And why has Buzz Aldrin picked this particular moment to start talking about going to Mars again? I guess as long as we don't send James Brolin and Sam Waterson, but maybe that wouldn't be such a bad gig for O.J. Simpson after all.