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One of the big surprises for everybody was they actually did go to the Moon, but it was the government that did it. Everybody had always thought that it would be some sort of pioneering industrialist that would finance this thing and they’d build it in their backyard. Then it actually happened and, my God, it was a 25 billion dollar project run by the federal government, and bureaucracy as far as the eye could see, because if you didn’t have bureaucracy you wouldn’t get anything done.
There’s nothing like observing new things. I think most scientists feel that way, no matter what their field is. I can remember in 1969 I spent two weeks in Budapest. This was when the Iron Curtain was still strong.
People would just walk up to us in the streets and say, “Congratulations, Americans!” I still remember that. That was very riveting to them. I think part of it was a reaction to the Russians, because they were under the foot of the Russians at the time. But also it was partly that it was a very exciting time.
I actually got to see Apollo 14 launched, which was very impressive. The big physical sensation is just that the low-frequency sound. You can actually feel it sort of hitting in and vibrating your stomach. That’s the sound the microphones can’t catch.
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Department of Planetary Sciences
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
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