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The launch of “The Moon Landing in Context”: Frank White explores the history Apollo

Tessa Jillson

Scholar and author Frank White had always been interested in space exploration. After his mother bought him a book about space, he began to obsess and developed his own knowledge about the world beyond his perception.

During the ’60s while White was studying political and social science at Harvard University, he observed the lunar missions from afar and decided that he needed to get involved.

White said the lunar missions reestablished his passion for space exploration and he began his quest to figure out how he could get involved even though he wasn’t an astronaut.

“I ended up being a writer about space exploration,” White explained.

Irene Porro, director of the McAuliffe Center for integrated science learning, launched a year-long series called “The Moon Landing in Context: Then, Now, and Beyond,” featuring speakers, exhibitions, and performances to focus on how social change, protests, and war influenced space exploration and how the moon landing changed the way humankind saw the world.

The series commenced on Sept. 27 in the McCarthy forum with “The Moon Together: A Lost

Opportunity,” an open discussion directed by White, author of 14 books on topics ranging from space exploration to climate change, including his best-known work, “Overview Effect.”

The idea behind the series was to “go beyond the standard story and learn about all the other

narratives” throughout the lunar missions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, said Porro.

While researching his book, White was influenced by historian John Logsdon, author of “John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon” to look at all the hidden facts about the moon landing and Apollo.

White began to develop his own theories about the Apollo missions, examining different narratives behind the lunar space missions.

The standard narrative, White said, was that President John F. Kennedy was not interested in space exploration and was only interested in “winning the Cold War.” The new narrative was that Kennedy became interested in space exploration and talked to the Premier of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev about collaborating with America on the Apollo Program. Khrushchev saw no reason to collaborate and declined the offer, White said.

Although a lot of accounts recall the Apollo Program as an alternative to winning the war, White suggests that the new narrative is more accurate.

When Kennedy first announced the Apollo Program, no one had the slightest idea how to get to the moon and back safely, said White.

Concerned about the cost of the mission, Kennedy used the program as a diplomatic tool and hinted through his speeches, letters, and memos that he wanted to collaborate with the Soviet Union and other nations to unify planet Earth through space exploration.

“If he had not been assassinated, there’s a really good chance that Apollo would have been, not only a joint mission but a multinational mission,” White said.

The third narrative, White said, is the Camelot narrative. This narrative provides evidence that Kennedy was seeking to unify the nations. White noted that Kennedy as a child read the Arthurian legends and Camelot was his favorite. Kennedy’s administration was also full of quests, much like the Arthurian legends, including Apollo.

“To me Camelot is not a place it’s a state of mind. It’s a new vision – a possibility of what might be, of what might of been, and we need that vision,” White said.

White inspired audience members to get involved by writing and informing themselves about space exploration to bring about a new consciousness in the world, he said, “Develop your own space project.”

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