Follow along with Richard’s first hand narration of how historic events shaped the map, the cutting edge science involved in assembling the photographic base material, and the many explanatory notes included on the final design. The wall map is a piece of art, please enjoy
Please join me in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Race to the Moon! Map co-author Richard Furno has allowed me to turn his keynote presentation into a post on my blog illustrating the trials and tribulations of creating this fabulous wall map for the National Geographic Society’s magazine.
My friend and cartography colleague Richard Furno retired from The Washington Post as of January 1st, 2009. He had a long and productive career first at National Geographic Maps starting in 1963 and afterwards for the newspaper making daily, deadline driven maps for publication in the next day’s newspaper from 1978 to 2008. He was a victim of a changing media landscape and dreery economic times. Read more about Richard Furno.
Richard has been a great mentor to me and we officially honored him last week in the NewsArt department. While he was at National Geographic, Richard worked on The Moon Map and I’d like to share it’s story with everyone around the globe. Because of it’s length, this blog post will be in 2 parts.
NOTE: You may also be interested in my photo essay on Toni Mair-Terrain Artist Extraordinaire.
The remainder of this post is taken directly from Dick’s Keynote presentation. Any references to “I” are in his first person, not mine. Photo and illustrations either (c) National Geographic or variety of unnamed sources.
While I worked at the National Geographic, no map produced there was so closely tied to events occurring on the country’s and world’s political stage. With each of many developments — a new satellite, a capsule crash, an important space photo — our enthusiasm for or anticipation of actual publication of the Moon map was affected.
The principal author of the National Geographic’s Moon map was Dave Cook, not myself. The history below relates my involvement. Dave was virtually the sole designer. He was also the main researcher and writer of all the material on the map. He established contact with all the phenomenal people who took part in reviewing and editing the final map, many of whom were involved in NASA’s push to the Moon.
After the Moon map was finished, Dave went on to produce the Geographic’s Mars map showing the newly discovered topography as photographed by the spacecraft of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
When I finished this presentation, I sent it to Dave asking for his edits and urged that he make abundant additions of his own. He said it was “great” but didn’t take the time to add details of his own. I wish he had. This story is far from complete without his part.
Dave and I have been best of friends from 1963 to today and we continue to love astronomy and all things “space-programish”.
1959: Luna 3
In 1959, the Russians sent a spacecraft called Luna 3 into space that looped around the moon and took the first pictures of the… Far Side of the Moon.
There were many Russian space mission that jolted the citizens, and politicians, of the United States from Sputnik in 1957 well into the 1960′s. The Soviets seemed to be able to do anything in space that they chose. These were truly spectacular events.
At the time, the Soviets did not reveal the results of their space missions unless the Kremlin chose to do so. Much of what happened during their space effort wasn’t learned until after 1990. Their secrecy simply enhanced the U.S. drive to beat the Russians to the Moon.
Luna 3’s Far Side Photo
But the photos Luna 3 took were extremely disappointing (above). The right hand two-thirds of the photo is the Far Side of the Moon. The Russians made detailed maps out of this and a few other comparable photos, but they were simply attempts to apply a mass of Russian names to any and all possible features that they could discern. Eventually, only two features here are somewhat clear and their names have stuck. At bottom right is a dark crater with a bright central peak. They named it Tsiolkovsky. The dark patch toward the top was named the Sea of Moscow.
1959: Mercury Program Announced
America’s rollout of its first Mercury space capsule to the launch pad was literally an afterthought. When the US had its first test launch of a Mercury capsule, NASA hadn’t thought of a way to move it to the launch pad. Someone volunteered their flat bed truck. To prevent bumps on the road from being transferred to the capsule, a mattress was placed on the truck to act as a cushion (it’s just noticeable in the picture sandwiched between the capsule platform and the flat bed). Compare this jerry-rigged contraption with…
(Preview) Dec. 16, 1969: Apollo 13 Rollout
Ten years later in 1969 rocket technology had advanced (above). But let’s get back to our story…
1961: Alan Shepard Rockets into Space (Barely)
“Why don’t you light this candle?!!” Alan Shepard on the pad, May 5, 1961
Following the Soviet Union’s dramatic, first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin, the U.S. sent Alan Shepard into space. But Shepard’s flight was suborbital, far less dramatic and a month later than Gagarin’s flight. It lasted 15 minutes, traveled 116 miles high and went 298 miles downrange.
1961: Quest for the Moon
With just those 15 minutes worth of experience in space, President Kennedy made a startling announcement.
May, 1961: President Kennedy Announced We Were Going to Land on the Moon within 8 years!
America was well behind Russia in its space program. The Russians were succeeding in their space missions at an alarming yet. Yet with nothing more that 15 minutes of manned spaceflight experience, Kennedy made a speech before Congress proposing the moon landing. The speech followed this exploratory memo sent to Vice President Johnson asking if there was any kind of space effort in which the U.S could catch up and beat Russia. President Kennedy wanted to devote “maximum effort” to such a program.
After meeting with NASA administrator Jim Webb and NASA scientists, Johnson came back with their mutually agreed upon idea to go to the Moon. Kennedy then drafted his famous speech. I was still in college but I was getting interested in astronomy and this got me interested in the MOON.