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To the Moon Courtesy of our TV Set

1959 June 3 - . 58 years ago today brings back vivid memories

  • Construction begins on the first Saturn launch complex - Program: Apollo. Cape Canaveral, Florida. (1)

"Answering President Kennedy's challenge of landing men on the moon by 1969 required the most sudden burst of technological creativity, and the largest commitment of resources ($24 billion), ever made by any nation in peacetime..." (2) And the face of this new paradigm shift could be found in homes, restaurants, bars, stores, offices and hotels around the world: TELEVISION.

Like most middle class families of the time, we had a small black & white TV set placed on a rather rickety metal stand with casters.

When located in the living room, this TV had a brown flat antenna cable with two sets of wires screwed to the back of its cabinet. The cable traveled up to the roof where stood a TV antenna, looking like the skeleton of an ancient bird in flight.

Sitting atop of the TV was another portable antenna - known as rabbit ears - that allowed the viewer to disconnect the brown cable and roll the set to different rooms in the home. Programming could be watched when the signal was clear, usually necessitating a slight adjustment to the "ears." Very hi-tech. By the way, a metal hanger, often accompanied by an abrupt slap to the side of the set, served the same purpose as the commercial ears.

As I think back to the days of the Apollo Missions - I was 10 years old at the time of Apollo 11 - I recall two distinct memories. The first was how my family gathered around the little TV set in our living room, glued to each moment of the news broadcast. It seemed unbelievable. We were able to witness the experience of the astronauts in real time - well after about 1.3 seconds for the signal to travel from the moon and then adding a few seconds for it to be relayed to television networks. After all, the moon is about 238,000 miles away from the earth.

However, as amazing as this event was, we had a special reason for wanting to watch the coverage - particularly on CBS, the network featuring Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra - my second memory. Our dad, Jaime, had written and recorded the music for the CBS News bumper, used when coverage began and returned from commercial breaks.

Watching the astronauts, you felt as if you were living and breathing each moment with them. We rarely left our place on the floor in front of the set - except possibly to eat, to use the bathroom or to sleep. But even those necessary functions would be interrupted when we heard the news coverage go to commercial, like one of the classic ads of the day promoting Tang, the powdered orange tasting drink of the astronauts. As the commercials played, we'd dash back to our spots to await eagerly the bumper with our dad's music. Wow! Can you imagine? Some of our friends, maybe Kirk and Jeff, might have heard it... Little did we realize that a large segment of the country as well as parts around the world were listening to what he wrote for this historic event.

Honored to be part of this great human endeavor, even in a small way, Jaime began this project by composing his Western Overture. His piece would speak to the excitement felt about the mission. Within the overture, representative of his homeland, he utilized the rhythms of a Bolivian carnavalito and woodwinds, reminiscent of Andean flutes. During the Apollo 11 moon mission, CBS received the highest ratings, making it the most-watched television network for the event. Jaime would go on to compose and record music for CBS' coverage of all subsequent lunar missions.

Please enjoy the complete orchestral version of the Western Overture.

(1) source:

(2) source:

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