Singularity is a time-travel themed show where we journey through time to examine singular events in human history, pop culture, and music. So sit back and hold on tight while we journey back to 1969 and fly to the moon — again — with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, rockin’ out to current hits all along the way.
Transcript[ Intro sound clip ]
This is Ashlyn McCormick welcoming you to Singularity, the online radio show that travels back and forth through time to examine singular events in human history, pop culture, and music. This week we’re taking the time machine back to July 20th in the year 1969 to experience the Apollo 11 moon landing with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, newscasters Walter Cronkite and Peter Jennings, musicians David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, and more!
Sit back, and hold on tight while I fire up the black hole generator and focus the graviton beams to open a wormhole. We’ll be skipping past the accretion disc and arriving at our destination in…[ Countdown & time travel clip ]
It’s just after 8 pm UTC on July 20th of 1969 and the Eagle lunar module — launched on July 16th, is coming in for landing on the surface of the moon under control of astronaut Neil Armstrong…[ Eagle has landed clip ]
Nearly 500 million people are either listening to or watching the moon landing live right now on their radios and televisions, with the majority listening to coverage by famous newscaster Walter Cronkite, whose voice you just heard. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin are supposed to take a five hour break to sleep as they’ve been awake for nearly a day. However, they’re too excited to sleep and have started preparing for their EVA — the extra-vehicular activity on the moon’s surface. First, Buzz Aldrin takes a private communion, and he radios this message back to Earth:
“This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
While getting ready for their EVA, the astronauts play this 1964 song by Frank Sinatra on their portable cassette player, making it the first song ever played on the moon.[ Fly Me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra ]
That was Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’, a song that became very closely tied to NASA’s Apollo 11 mission.
While the astronauts had set aside two hours for EVA prep, in reality it takes much longer. Television and radio station viewers and listeners are starting to get bored with the waiting between lunar landing events and are treated to a steady stream of celebrities and popular music. The song Space Oddity, released by David Bowie just nine days ago on July 11th is currently in heavy rotation.[ Space Oddity – David Bowie ] [ In the Year 2525 – Zager & Evans ]
In the Year 2525 by Zager & Evans is the number one song right now on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 Chart and it will stay there for four more weeks. The excitement around the moon landing helped make this song popular as well.
On ABC news, television newscaster Frank Reynolds periodically cuts back to regular news anchor Peter Jennings for updates on other events happening internationally…[ Suez canal clip ] [ Vietnam clip ]
While the world is currently focused on the awesome success of the American moon landing mission, the ugly truth is that the cold war is in full swing, the Middle East is a piping hot mess, and Americans are bitterly divided over the Vietnam War. Because of this, a new John Lennon track — Give Peace A Chance — is rapidly working its way up the charts right now.[ Give Peace A Chance — Plastic Ono Band ] [ Get Back – The Beatles ] [ Honkey Tonk Women – The Rolling Stones ]
That was John Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’ followed by The Beatle’s Get Back, also with John Lennon. The last song in the set was Honkey Tonk Women by the Stones, who are still reeling from the death of founding member Brian Jones earlier in the month. Next up are The Archies with Sugar Sugar.[ Sugar Sugar – The Archies ] [ Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ – Crazy Elephant ] [ Red Red Wine – Tony Tribe ]
We ended that set with Crazy Elephant and Tony Tribe. We’re still about four and a half hours away from the EVA and broadcasters are desperately trying to hold onto viewers and listeners. Fortunately for me I’ve got a time machine and some spare antimatter kicking around. Hang on while we jump ahead.[ Time travel sound effect ]
Neil Armstrong has spent a frustrating eleven minutes trying to exit the lunar module. The lunar lander was redesigned before the mission with a smaller exit, but engineers failed to modify the astronauts’ environmental suits to fit through the reduced opening, causing Armstrong to keep getting stuck and his heart rate telemetry to go through the roof. Finally, he gets through the hatch and begins his descent down the module’s stairs to the moon’s surface. Before reaching the surface he uncovers a plaque on the side of the lander that reads:
“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
At 2:51 am Armstrong steps onto the surface of the moon, the first human being to do so. He sends the following (and now famous) transmission back to Earth:[ One small step clip ]
Neil Armstrong is shortly joined on the lunar surface by Buzz Aldrin. They plant a specially made American flag within sight of their camera and get busy collecting samples. Television and radio stations continue to play hit shows and music to fill the lulls in the lunar broadcast with artists like Booker T and the MGs and Simon & Garfunkel:[ Time Is Tight – Booker T and the MGs ] [ The Box – Simon & Garfunkel ]
Finally, a long awaited phone call to the astronauts arrives from recently elected President Richard Nixon to recognize and commemorate the occasion:[ Nixon phone call ]
One of the lighter moments during the lunar excursion comes as Neil Armstrong enjoys bouncing along in the lunar gravity, which is one sixth Earth gravity. He sings “hippity hoppity” as he bunny hops across the moon.[ Hippity hoppity clip ]
This is caught on film by Buzz Aldrin and played back on Earth to the amusement of the live audiences following along.
After completing their EVA, the two astronauts return to the lunar module where they encounter more difficulty with the too small hatch and their too large suits. They take nearly 50 lbs worth of lunar material with them. To offset this weight they toss now unneeded gear out to the lunar surface. For camera collectors, this means that the world’s most valuable Hasselblad camera is now lying on the ground in the Sea of Tranquility. Following this Armstrong and Aldrin settle down for seven hours of badly needed sleep before lifting off.
The parade of hits and variety acts resume on television and radio networks determined to hang onto their record audience and the record ad rates they are charging.[ In the Ghetto – Elvis Presley ] [ It’s Your Thing – The Isley Brothers ]
That was Elvis singing In the Ghetto and It’s Your Thing by the Isley Brothers. I don’t think I can keep my own audience for another seven hours so we’re going to expend more antimatter and jump ahead again…[ Time travel sound effect ]
It’s now 5:52 pm on July 21st. Aldrin and Armstrong have just circumvented a problem with an accidentally damaged circuit breaker using the tip of a felt pen. This is the circuit used to fire the booster rockets. There is no longer a need to pull the panel and wire around the damaged circuit. The liftoff countdown has resumed as planned…[ Ascent recording ]
The pair of astronauts are now returning in the landing module to the Columbia spacecraft, which has been orbiting the moon under the care of pilot and astronaut Michael Collins. A relieved President Nixon is almost ready to set aside the alternate speech he had prepared in case the mission failed. After twenty one and a half hours on the lunar surface, Earth’s astronauts are going home and fatigued viewers and listeners are turning off televisions and radios to FINALLY head to bed. We’re just about to head back to 2015 ourselves, but first I’ll leave you with a thought and a song.
Things are pretty shaky on Earth right now in the summer of ‘69. The Americans and the Soviets are threatening each other with nuclear weapons and fighting proxy wars against each other. The Middle East is full of hate. But for a few days most everyone in the world was able to put the bad stuff aside to dream, hope, and celebrate together. All it took was a group of determined and brave people deciding to reach for the sky in the face of nearly impossible odds. That’s a lesson from the past we can bring with us into the present.
Here’s Aquarius by The Fifth Dimension, which captured the optimistic spirit of that singular moment in time. And I’ll see you again in our own moment in time — in the Singularity.[ Time travel sound effect ]
You’ve been listening to Singularity with your host, Ashlyn McCormick. All news sound clips are used under Canada’s Fair Dealing laws for educational purposes in this non-commercial podcast. Our family has obtained licenses from Connect, Re:Sound, and SOCAN in Canada that allow us to legally use music in the production of this show in keeping with Canadian copyright law. We encourage podcasters to obtain licenses to make sure that artists get compensated for their work and hobbyists get to keep doing what we love.
Narration: Ashlyn McCormick
Script: Ashlyn McCormick with assist from Sean McCormick
Sound engineering and editing: Ashlyn McCormick
Publication Date: Apr 11, 2015