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Remembering lunar exploration

The programmes commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the landing on the moon prompted me to research my memory banks.

My interest began before 1969 with Herge’s Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon published some 10 years before.

It’s different from other Tintin adventures in that it’s not about good and evil but truth and error as the nuclear physics are rather complex for what was essentially a comic.

Tintin excited our vivid schoolboy imagination with tales of piracy (The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, Balkan border wars (King Ottkakar’s Sceptre, The Calculus Affair ) Buddhist mysticism (Tintin In Tibet) and Incan culture (Prisoners of the Sun).

Add to this lavish illustrations and a colourful array of characters like Captain Haddock, opera diva Bianca Castafiore “The Milanese Nightingale”, Colonle Sponz the heads of Zep, the Bordurian secret service and the irrepressible cheerful Jolyon Wagg of the Rockbottom Insurance Company.

We were all agog. We even invented our own countries like Borduria and Sylvania. So for us the men who first landed on the moon were Tintin and Captain Haddock.

At the time of the American landing, there was debate at our school on its worth.

The main arguments against were cost and motive, perceived as part of the rivalry between the Soviets and USA.

However at this debate Peter Roth, who is now a High Court judge, argued that the poetic quality of the moon would be no longer.

Looking back he was wrong.

There was slew of space films afterwards from Space Odyssey to Alien to Star Wars – not to mention David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon.

Lunar exploration – or any form of space exploration – does not seem to engage a younger generation and I doubt if they read Tintin as Herge’s early works led him to be branded as racist colonialist and he contiuned to write for the pro-Nazi Le Soir after Belgium was occupied by the Nazis.

Yet he was the father of the modern comic and people from Charles Moore to Hugh Grant continue to be great admirers.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts