My husband is seven years older than me, and the older we get the less the age gap seems to matter – just as the longer I live here the more I understand his many and sometimes colourful American cultural references.
However, there are certain conversation topics that always remind me of these differences. For example, I was not born when President Kennedy was assassinated, but as a 4-year-old, my husband remembers his mom crying as she watched the TV news.
Another difference is a historical event that had a significant impact on my husband and the whole Baby Boomer generation: 46 years ago today, on July 20 1969, Apollo 11 landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon. Televisions were brought into thousands of classrooms across America, and as an American 11-year-old studying space and the planets, the moon landing was a highlight of my husband’s childhood. It was obviously huge news in England as well, but I was just too young to remember it happening. When I became old enough to realize what a big deal this was, in my mind it just blended into the tapestry of wonderful achievements by those glamorous Americans.
I thought it would be fun, on this anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon, to share a few facts and myths about the moon (visit www.history.com and www.space.com for more information):
• Since the 1970s, the "Giant Impact Hypothesis" put forward the theory that a newly formed earth and a Mars-size object called Theia collided in a fiery explosion, and the moon coalesced from the resulting debris about 4.5 billion years ago.
• No matter how it was created, our moon has been worshipped by pagans, used as a compass and had many strange beliefs developed around it for centuries. These range from it being made of cheese, to aliens living on it, and all the way to the conspiracy theory that NASA faked the moon landings.
• All of us in Western societies have heard the tale of the man who lives on the moon, but a surprising number of legends from other cultures, including Buddhism and Native American folklore, recount the tale of a rabbit that lives on the moon. This shared myth is probably due to the markings on the lunar surface — an alternate take on the fabled "man in the moon." Shortly before Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, mission control in Houston jokingly referred to the Chinese version of the story, telling the spaceship’s crew, "Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there’s one asking that you watch out for a lovely girl with a big rabbit." Command module pilot Michael Collins replied, "Okay. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl."
• There have been countless myths about full moons making people crazy or transforming them into werewolves. The words "lunacy" and "lunatic" come from the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna, who was said to ride her silver chariot across the dark sky each night. For thousands of years, doctors and mental health professionals believed in a strong connection between mania and the moon. Some still do.
• Many early civilizations believed that the moon determined when women could become pregnant. For centuries, many scholars linked the two, probably because the female and lunar cycles are similar in length.
• After World War II, rumors circulated that German astronauts had traveled to the moon and established a top-secret facility there. Some even speculated that Adolf Hitler faked his own death, fled the planet and lived out the rest of his days in an underground lunar hideout. Connections were also drawn between flying saucer sightings — including the famous incident near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 — with the Nazis’ alleged UFO development program.
And my favorite story actually happened:
• As the Apollo 11 team safely returned to Earth, having splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, the crew were taken to a NASA facility in Hawaii. Despite being the three most famous men in the world at the time, they were still asked to fill out a customs and declarations form on arrival. In the section asking "Departure from," the Apollo 11 crew had to fill in the blank with "The Moon."
I will leave you with a great quote from Buzz Aldrin himself: "Shoot for the moon; you might get there."
God bless America!