Russians, Rockets, and Election Campaigns
The first time I was allowed to watch TV in the middle of the night was in 1969, when I was an eight-year-old boy, to watch the very first Moon landing happen live. At the time, I was completely unaware of the significance of the special event that I was watching unfold. Today, you can hardly believe what was going on in the media back then. Reports of new rocket launches and space missions were still completely new phenomena and these events were followed closely by the general public. They were all broadcast on live TV and fascinated everyone else just as much as they did me. The “Conquest of Space” had already been going on for ten years, and everyone was fairly certain that the Olympics would be held on the Moon in the year 2000. We argued amongst ourselves about how new records would have to be evaluated in reduced gravity (imagine a 500-meter javelin toss), and becoming an astronaut was THE DREAM of all young boys. Anyway, it was absolutely clear that new worlds were opening up—the film “2001—A Space Odyssey,” reflects this attitude very well. For most of the adult population in Germany, not just in our city, the event was so momentous that they woke up at 3 o’clock on a Monday morning (!) to see what was happening on our Moon. Most of the windows in our neighborhood were lit up. This excitement enraptured a considerable number of people all over the world, but those in North America were particularly happy with NASA. They had planned the landing time so that it occurred between noon and late afternoon on the 20th of July, depending on where you lived in the United States. The first steps on the Moon occurred during prime-time TV (the best time for advertising: The Moon Landing—Brought to you by Kellogg’s!) between 6:00 and 9:00 pm. For all the other inhabitants of the planet this meant a greater or lesser degree of inconvenience to your daily schedule depending on their longitude. The total viewership amounted to around 500 million people, at a time when there were far fewer TVs in the world than there are today. Sadly, most of the citizens of Earth were so poor that they didn’t have the time nor the luxury to pursue something that didn’t even improve their lives.