Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Norman's Tropics

He found himself going for a walk along the grass. Between the grandstand and the lagoon was a field about the size of a Little League baseball park and the photographers had all set themselves up at the edge of the water, their cameras with telephoto lenses set on tripods so that they looked from behind like a whole command of Army surveyors taking a lesson in their instrument. And the object on which they were focused, Apollo-Saturn, looked gray and indistinct across the air waves of heat shimmering off the lagoon.

To the right of the photographers was a small grove of pure jungle. Recollections of his platoon on a jungle trail, hacking with machetes entered his head. A hash of recollections. He had thought he would be concentrating on the activities at the Launch Pad, the Control Center, in the Command Module, he had expected to be picturing the vitals of the rocket, and the entrance of the fuels into it, but he was merely out of sorts with a headache, and waiting for the time to pass.
—Norman Mailer, at the launch of Apollo 11, from Of a Fire on the Moon

I have been struck by this description of the jungle just at the edge of the press viewing area, and now I have seen it for myself (and snapped a picture of it with my phone, as you can see).

One of the things I enjoyed most about getting press credentials for the last launch was getting to explore the press site itself. I realized today that I forgot to step out onto the patio of the CBS building, from which Walter Cronkite sat for many hours keeping Americans apprised of the progress of various missions, and that the CBS building will probably now be torn down, and then I was really sad. It seems there is no end to the fresh little tragedies at the end of American spaceflight.