Wally Funk, Music & Moon Landing

I’ve just been listening to a terrific BBC6 (UK radio station) special one hour programme on space to celebrate 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 moon landing.  It’s done in a magazine-type format, with short reports on a variety of topics by well-known British music and broadcasting voices.

We begin with Brian Eno (composer/musician) and Brian Cox (science correspondent) talking about the moon and music.

You don’t need to know lots about science (I don’t) to enjoy this – it proves to be an interesting programme, as both are not only scientific thinkers, but excellent communicators and have met rather a lot of similarly interesting people.  In fact, Brian Eno had just come from meeting 6 astronauts the previous week.

They discuss such things as:

  • memories of watching the moonwalk and then turning to look at the moon in the sky
  • the rapidity of development of aviation: that Charlie Duke, astronaut
    Charles Duke (CAPCOM)

    had a father who remembered the Wright brothers’ flight (1903) and then saw his son walk on the moon (1972)

  • the economic return in America on dollars spent on science to get to the moon ($14 return per each $1 spent)
  • the small height of Soviet Cosmonauts because this reduced the weight load
  • the one cassette each music tape chosen by American crew (overwhelmingly Country and Western music, reflecting that they felt space was a new frontier?)
  • with analogue computers, the technology involved was craftsmanship
  • the memory of the guidance computer used for lunar exploration was 2K about the size of a small email

Then we go to a music festival (Blue Dot) to hear about

Wally Funk, American flight instructor and pilot who passed the same tests as the Mercury 7 (Allan Shepherd et al) guys who went on to be astronauts – but was never accepted onto the programme – which some believe is due to her gender, as a woman.  She was on a programme known as Mercury 13 with 24 other female pilots – given the same tests as the astronauts – with a higher pass rate than the guys – but the programme was privately funded and those who passed were not accepted by NASA onto the astronaut programme.  She was news to me – sounded formidable – and looking up her article on Wikipedia (from which the photo of her is taken) confirmed this.  Reading an interview with her in the Guardian newspaper by Emine Saner increased my respect for someone who is clearly adventurous, positive and fearless to the nth degree.  I think she would have been an able companion to Neil Armstrong and would have added such life and spunk to the broadcasts.

Jodrell Bank

As an observatory in England, Jodrell Bank was part of following the space race, and breaking the news of some early successes – all related with wit by Tim O’Brien, Assistant Director, who knows how to tell a good anecdote about cricket, fax machines and world events.

Jarvis Cocker

Then we’re with Jarvis Cocker (of “Common People” song fame) presenting a couple of pieces of groovy space-inspired music.  All very enjoyable – and I particularly appreciated the typo in the show notes:

Screen shot 2019-07-28 at 13.05.00

BBC, we have a problem…. I think that’s meant to read “Iggy Pop”.


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