Destination Moon

Apollo 11 Command Module – Columbia

The Saint Louis Science Center is now hosting the exhibit, Destination Moon. This Smithsonian created show will complete its four city tour next year in Seattle, on the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing. Saint Louis was awarded its stop in honor of its creation of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

I can still remember that July evening, almost fifty years ago, when men first walked upon the moon. I was summering at my maternal grandfather’s resort in Massachusetts, the Pond. Our cottage didn’t have its own TV set, so we went to a neighboring cottage to watch the moon landing. It was a black & white and being in the country, its reception wasn’t the best. When the live moon feed was added, the picture became nearly unintelligible. Still it was a momentous event.

Years later, when I moved to Saint Louis, I worked at McDonnell Douglas. I met engineers who had built the Mercury and Gemini space capsules. They recounted President Kennedy’s famous inspection tour of the plant. While, I was working there, manufacturing of the space shuttle orbiter’s maneuvering system pods was underway, Each pod was as big as a truck. Later, I had the opportunity to work with the same high altitude test chamber that was originally built to test the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft.

Destination Moon is a title that this exhibit shares with a 1950s science-fiction film. In this movie, a failed government rocket launch leads the government to abandon the race to the moon. American industrialists step-in and pick up the mantle of manned spaceflight. A rocket is dispatched to the moon and safely returns, but not before one of the astronauts poses for a photo, with the Earth seemingly resting on his shoulder. It all sounds rather prophetic. 

Aviles Street

Aviles Street – Reenactors on the Oldest Street in America

I’m always amazed at how easily I can get people to pose for the camera. Even professionals like these pictured reenactors. This trope was wearily trooping back to their cars after a long day of pretending to be people who they were not. At my ask, the guy on the left organized his posse. Maybe one of their ancestors wore similar garb, Maybe they just like to pretend. They were probably coming from the fort that is now a national monument in St. Augustine. It is serendipity that I caught them on Aviles Street, the oldest street in America.

Repel Boarders

Castillo de San Marcos Cannon Firing

When we visited St. Augustine, we toured Castillo de San Marcos, a national monument now, where reenactors portray 18th-century Spanish soldiers. Built to repel first the English and then Americans, you could think of it as a not so successful wall. It could not prevent the annexation of Florida by the US.

Static fortifications seldom succeed in the face of dynamic forces. History is rife with examples. The Great Wall could not prevent the Mongols from conquering China and the Maginot Line didn’t stop the Germans. So, I don’t see why anyone thinks that a southern border wall will prevent illegal immigration. Especially since most undocumented people enter the US legally and overstay their visa.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight, since my family members are all citizens, plus I have ancestors that came to America even before San Marcos did. Even they were immigrants though. We are a nation of immigrants. Once, that idea distinguished us from other countries. What ever happened to the ideal of Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

I said that I am not personally affected by this debate, but I am touched by it. It hurts me to witness my country doing wrong. This is not the first time that the US has turned nativist, but it is happening again now and I don’t like it. 

The Town of Kansas

Rubber Boot Sole, Goodyear’s Brothers, Naugatuck, Connecticut, 1855

We decided to explore the view that we had been looking out at from our hotel room for the last few days. So, we headed downhill to the Missouri River. We parked at the City Market, which we explored first. We did lots of looking, but not much buying. We looked for the river walk and after wandering for a while, eventually found the entrance to it. At first, it felt spooky to me, being all alone together along the Missouri. The landscape is rather post-industrial, with only a strip of now brown zoysia to delimit the park boundaries. Eventually, enough joggers and dog walkers appeared to allay my fears. We walked the path until the bluffs receded, exposing us to the day’s stiff winds. We persisted for a while, but eventually turned around. Returning to the market, we shopped for lunch. We looked at Vietnamese and Ethiopian, before settling on Brazilian.  

At the east end of the market is the museum for the sunken steamship Arabia. We had visited this museum years ago, when Bob and Nink lived in KC. Our kids were still young then, as was the museum. Privately owned, this museum is the fruition of generations now. We had visited first, shortly after it had opened. A generation later, it was so much grander. In 1855, when Kansas City was but a town, the up bound steamboat Arabia passed by. The captain wanted to make more miles, before calling it a day. Unfortunately, disaster in the form of a snag speared the bow of the boat and caused it to sink in 15 minutes. Fortunately, the only loss of life was a single mule. The boat sat in 50′ of mud for 150 years until this enterprise decided to dig it up again.

I’ve chosen to show only one of the 1000s of artifacts that have been unearthed, a Goodyear boot seal. Before the tire company made tires, it made boots, but when contacted about this find, Goodyear denied the possible existence of such shoes. The vulcanization was too unstable at that time. This shoe is now bathed in nitrogen. These amateur archeologists are already embarking upon their next target, the Malta. 15 years older than the Arabia, the Malta should shed light on an even older period of Missouri history and western expansion.

Middle 19th-century, while headed west, you would decamp from a steamboat and head south three miles to Westport. There waited three trailheads: Oregon, Santa Fe and Mormon. Now, it is a bar district. We visited Kelly’s, which is housed in the oldest building in KC. There we witnessed some frontier injustice, when a gang of lesbians were displaced by a bunch of bean bag boys. They did not go quietly. I should have been more heroic, but it was not my monkey and not my circus. After a beer, it was Thai for dinner and then bedtime for Bonzo.