Editor’s note: The late Keith Blackledge, The Telegraph’s editor from 1967 to 1992, wrote the following editorials as Apollo 11 headed for and landed on the moon 50 years ago this week.
First Journey To The Moon
They are off for the Moon!
What days these are. A few years ago, talk of flying to the moon was children’s fantasy, and adults patiently explained why it was impossible. It still seems impossible to most of us, unreal, unbelievable — but it is happening.
No explorers ever went so far while keeping in such close contact with those at home. Columbus simply sailed away, and no one knew what happened to him until he got back. We know every step, every change of direction, can hear the explorers’ voices as they report on what they see or how they feel.
It is difficult, in such times, to stick to the tasks of daily living. Can you do the dishes, or write a headline, or get very excited about what the Legislature decides to do about the gasoline tax when your heart and mind and prayers are riding on a voyage to the Moon? Of course you can, you must. But earthbound concerns lose some of their importance for a while.
It is a great drama. Not one that will change our lives greatly today or tomorrow, but one that has already changed our minds, our way of thinking about the universe and man’s capabilities.
A time to watch, and wonder.
— July 17, 1969
Never The Same Moon Again
Well, there you are.
If you have a three-year-old son, he knows more about the moon today than you knew yesterday.
If you try to tell him it is made of green cheese, or that the man in the moon will frown at him if he doesn’t go right to sleep, he will think you’ve flipped.
He knows it’s made of powdery dust, covering a firm surface, and strewn with rocks and boulders. He knows there isn’t a “Man in the Moon” but a man on the moon, and his name is Neil Armstrong.
A little thing, perhaps, that a pair of old sayings which made comfortable nonsense-talk between parents and children for generations are now outdated and will fall into disuse.
Yet it shows how events change our world, our way of talking and thinking. It is a new ball game for these children growing up in a universe in which the moon is someplace to go, not just something to see and to romance about.
Yet some things remain constant. Courage is as big a word in moon exploration as it was when Vikings first sailed. Determination, dedication, imagination, teamwork, intelligence, faith — all these were as necessary to the moon landing as any amount of rocket fuel.
The moon is not such a marvelous place, after all. But the qualities of human spirit that took men there are marvelous indeed.
Hope your young son learned that from the drama played out for all of us last night. If he did, he will have gained more than the knowledge the moon is not made of green cheese.
— July 21, 1969